Green in brief: Cherokee establish framework for medical marijuana cultivation

Cannabis close-up
GREEN LIGHT: Per an ordinance passed by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians on Aug. 5, qualifying patients will be able to buy up to 6 ounces of marijuana per month from tribal-owned dispensaries. Photo by Skalle-Per Hedenhös

Cherokee establish framework for medical marijuana cultivation, sales

Growers in the Qualla Boundary, the sovereign nation controlled by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in Cherokee, Graham, Haywood, Jackson and Swain counties, will soon be allowed to legally cultivate and sell medical marijuana. The EBCI Tribal Council passed an ordinance on Aug. 5 establishing a framework for production and use of the crop, which the body had voted to decriminalize on May 6.

The tribe will establish a Cannabis Control Board that will license all cultivation, processing, dispensary and laboratory locations. The first dispensary is slated for Cherokee; qualified patients over 21 years old, including people outside the tribe, will be able to purchase up to 1 ounce of medical cannabis per day and 6 ounces per month. Kituwah Medical LLC, an entity wholly owned by the EBCI, will have exclusive rights to grow and sell marijuana for three years.

“The Council’s approval of a medical marijuana ordinance is a testament to the changing attitudes toward legal marijuana and a recognition of the growing body of evidence that supports cannabis as medicine, particularly for those with debilitating conditions like cancer and chronic pain,” said Richard Sneed, principal chief of the EBCI, in a press release announcing the move. “I applaud the Council for their thoughtful consideration, exhaustive research and consultation with experts to develop a system that balances compassionate care for patients with preserving safety and security in our community.”

Marijuana remains illegal for both medical and recreational use elsewhere in North Carolina. However, the N.C. General Assembly is currently considering Senate Bill 711, which would permit patients with a limited set of “debilitating medical conditions” to access cannabis. As of press time, the bipartisan bill was awaiting approval by the Senate Judiciary Committee and has not yet been scheduled for a vote by the full Senate or House.

The full EBCI ordinance is available at

Cooperate WNC launches membership program

More than two years since its launch (see “Mutual Feeling,” April 24, 2019,, mutual aid nonprofit Cooperate WNC has opened a membership program for individuals and households in Western North Carolina. Zev Friedman, the organization’s founder and creative director, says this new participatory network represents a “middle level between family and strangers” that aims to build the region’s resilience against stresses such as climate change and COVID-19.

The most immediate benefit for members is access to the WNC Purchasing Alliance, a bulk-buying program that has previously worked with area businesses. Initial goods available for discount purchase include organic oats, nuts and cocoa powder, with plans to expand offerings into biodegradable cleaning products, solar energy equipment and farming supplies. By directing bulk demand toward local businesses, Friedman suggests, the program can strengthen the regional economy and support regenerative agriculture.

Other member perks include unlimited attendance at Cooperate WNC learning circles, coaching in the creation of mutual aid pods and savings pools, a private Facebook group and help preparing mutual aid requests. Members can also attend public Cooperate WNC events for free; the next offering is an acorn doughnut tasting and agroforestry discussion in Mars Hill at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 25, hosted in partnership with the Nutty Buddy Collective and Hole Doughnuts.

Memberships are offered on a sliding-scale basis, with fees starting at $9 per month. More information and registration are available at

Community kudos

  • Hellbender restoration work
    ROCK STARS: The Southeastern Hellbender Conservation Initiative completed its first habitat restoration project in Mills River, installing large nesting rocks for the giant salamanders. Photo courtesy of Defenders of Wildlife

    The N.C. Wildlife Federation honored two WNC residents as part of the Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards announced July 14. Jonathan Marchal, director of education at The N.C. Arboretum, was named environmental educator of the year, while Black Folks Camp Too, founded by Brevard-based entrepreneur Earl B. Hunter Jr., was recognized as conservation organization of the year.

  • Waynesville Middle School received a solar educational package valued at $42,000 from NC GreenPower, a Raleigh-based renewable energy nonprofit. The grant includes a 5-kilowatt solar array, as well as training and curriculum resources to help educators use the solar panels as a teaching tool.
  • For the third consecutive year, UNC Asheville was recognized as a Tree Campus USA by the national Arbor Day Foundation. The school was also recertified as a Bee Campus USA by The Xerces Society.
  • The Southeastern Hellbender Conservation Initiative, an effort of the national nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife, completed its first habitat restoration project on private lands at North River Farms in Mills River. Large rocks were placed in the river to provide cover and nesting spaces for the giant salamander, which is considered a species of special concern by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.

Save the date

  • The Treasured Trees program of nonprofit Asheville GreenWorks will recognize six trees at Flying Cloud Farm in Fairview at 11 a.m. Friday, Aug. 13. The oldest of those specimens is estimated to be 275 years old and is included on a plan drawn by Chauncey Beadle, the original nursery director of the Biltmore Estate.
  • Conserving Carolina, a Hendersonville-based environmental nonprofit, holds a virtual Conservation Celebration at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 24. The event’s keynote speaker is Jay Erskine Leutze, an attorney and author of Stand Up That Mountain, who led efforts to protect Belview Mountain in Avery County. More information and registration are available at
  • As a benefit for the nonprofit Utopian Seed Project, Bhramari Brewing Co. hosts its third annual Above the Clouds Festival at Franny’s Farm in Leicester on Saturday, Sept. 18. The nonprofit works to create regional food security in the face of climate change by trialing new crops and varieties. More information and registration are available at
  • The Pisgah Forest-based nonprofit FIND Outdoors hosts the Cradle to Grave 30K and 10K trail races on Sept. 18. All proceeds support the Cradle of Forestry in America, an interpretive site in the Pisgah National Forest. More information and registration are available at

Comings and goings

  • Sarah Ogletree has taken over from the Rev. Scott Hardin-Nieri as director of the Asheville-based Creation Care Alliance, the faith-based initiative of MountainTrue. Emma Childs, Enrique Sanchez and the Rev. Anna Shine also joined the program’s steering committee.
  • The Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation named Landis Taylor as the organization’s assistant vice president of marketing and communications. The move comes as the nonprofit plans to open its Wilson Center for Nature Discovery, a new museum and education space, in June 2022.
  • Barney, a popular coyote resident who came to Asheville’s WNC Nature Center as an orphaned pup in 2006, died July 22 at age 15. “As a lifelong resident of the Nature Center, tens of thousands of visitors had the opportunity to get to know him and to learn more about coyotes. He was a great ambassador,” said Chris Gentile, the center’s director, in a press release.

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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the former news editor of Mountain Xpress. His work has also appeared in Sierra, The Guardian, and Civil Eats, among other national and regional publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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