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North Carolina Senator Introduces Cannabis Legalization Bill

A.J. Herrington

By A.J. Herrington

May 26, 2022

A North Carolina senator introduced legislation to legalize and regulate marijuana this week in a bid to end the state’s prohibition of all forms of cannabis. The measure, Senate Bill 765 from Democratic Sen. Toby Fitch, was introduced in the North Carolina General Assembly on Monday.

North Carolina is one of only six states that continue to prohibit all forms and uses of cannabis, including medical cannabis. In addition to the Tar Heel State, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, South Carolina and Wyoming still outlaw all forms of pot.

Under

, adults aged 21 and older would be permitted to legally possess up to two ounces of marijuana. Public possession of more than two ounces of weed would be subject to a civil penalty of up to $25. Those possessing more than one pound of cannabis, however, could face felony charges and a fine of up to $250,000.

The legislation also permits adults 21 and older to cultivate up to two mature and two immature cannabis plants “for personal use at their place of residence.” Each plant must be tagged with the owner’s name, driver’s license or identification number and notice that the plant is being grown at home for personal use. Cannabis cultivation not in compliance with the legislation would be subject to felony criminal charges.

Providing cannabis to anyone younger than 21 would also still be illegal. Additionally, transporting pot in an open container or consumption of marijuana in a moving car by drivers or passengers would also be against the law under the measure.

The legislation establishes a regulatory framework for the commercial cultivation and retail sale of cannabis. Restrictions on how cannabis can be marketed and a requirement that warning labels be included on packaging for marijuana products are also included in the bill. Senate Bill 765 includes provisions for the manufacture of edible cannabis products. 

The legislation creates a state Cannabis Control Commission that would oversee “a uniform system of control over the sale, purchase, transportation, manufacture, consumption and possession of marijuana in North Carolina, and to provide procedures to insure the proper administration of the marijuana laws under a uniform system throughout the state.”

Legalization Debate Continues in North Carolina

Last month, the editorial board of the Daily Tar Heel, the campus newspaper for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, called for the legalization of cannabis in the state.

“While many might continue to hold reservations against the legalization of a substance that is considered an illicit drug, cannabis continues to be evaluated for its usefulness. In the meantime, people can work to educate themselves on the benefits legalization can bring to the economy and to those who may suffer pain-inducing conditions,”

“It’s time to legalize something that is already used commonly for recreational and medical purposes, allowing for sales and distribution to be regulated rather than attempting to control actions through criminal offenses or civil fines,” the editorial continued.

But getting a cannabis legalization bill successfully through the North Carolina state legislature is likely to be a challenge for lawmakers in favor of marijuana policy reform. Last year, a less comprehensive measure to legalize marijuana,

, was referred to the House Rules and Operations Committee, where lawmakers shelved the bill for the remainder of the 2021 legislative session. With the state legislature’s Republican leadership firmly opposed to legalization, Fitch’s legislation could suffer a fate similar to that of House Bill 617.

Senate Bill 765 also includes provisions to regulate industrial hemp in North Carolina. A separate measure filed on Monday, Senate Bill 762, would remove hemp from the state’s list of controlled substances. Under current North Carolina law, the state’s hemp agriculture pilot program approved in 2015 expires on July 1. Without the change, hemp products including CBD would technically become illegal again after that date.

State Senator Michael Lee, a cosponsor of the bill, expects the measure to be passed in time to avoid complications for the state’s hemp industry.

“It should move pretty fast in the Senate,”

. “Hopefully it will be in committee this week and on the floor by end of next week. It will then head to the house and not sure of their timeline. We are trying to make sure it is at the top of the agenda given the timelines. I am not sure about the reception it will receive in the house yet. We will know more in the coming weeks.”

A.J. Herrington

About The Author

A.J. Herrington

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