North Carolina. One of the first thirteen states, lying on the Atlantic coast about halfway between Florida and New York, this Southeastern state is a mix of gorgeous beach towns, small but busy cities, and lush forests. Known for its southern hospitality, its vibrant music scene, and beautiful landscape, North Carolina is ranked 17th in livability in the United States.
But when it comes to cannabis usage, both recreational and medicinal, what is the legal status?
In today's article, we are going to have an in-depth look at the North Carolina cannabis laws and answer the key questions
- Is marijuana legal in North Carolina?
- What are the penalties if caught in possession of cannabis?
- What are the medical marijuana laws in North Carolina?
But before we get into the nitty-gritty, let's look back at the history of weed and North Carolina.
The History Of Marijuana In North Carolina
Cannabis has a checkered history in North Carolina.
Like many of the conservative southern states, the overall attitude to marijuana use has been extremely negative, with the state introducing harsh punishments for the possession and sale of cannabis. It was among the first states to criminalize cannabis during the early 20th century, with the North Carolina opiate prohibition act of 1919.
However, like many other states in the US, there has been a slow but steady shift in the public's perception regarding marijuana. This has led to an increasing acceptance of its medical benefits and the state government beginning to relax some of its laws surrounding cannabis use.
In 1977, small amounts of the wonderful stick-icky were decriminalized. Possessing less than half an ounce of weed was no longer considered a felony, but instead resulted in a $200 fine.
There was a failed bid to enact medical marijuana in 2014, with the committee going as far as issuing an “unfavorable report”, which blocked the House from considering bills with medical marijuana components for the next two years. There is still no word on when the next bill will be proposed.
The use of CBD (cannabidiol) for the reduction of seizures was legalized in 2015, but only if the patient has been diagnosed with intractable epilepsy.
Is Recreational Weed Legal In North Carolina?
Nope, it most certainly is not. And that does not look to be changing any time soon, unfortunately.
Back in 2016, new laws were put in place that allowed farmers to grow Hemp. Hemp and cannabis are two sides of the same coin, and this led many to believe that recreational weed will soon become legal in the state, but alas we are all still waiting. Hemp contains less than 0.3% THC (the psychoactive component of cannabis), but it can contain high levels of CBD, which is totally non-intoxicating.
There is a strong hope within lobbying groups that recreational cannabis will be legalized at some point in the future, but unfortunately, until then, we are still living under North Carolina's extremely strict anti-cannabis laws.
What Is The Law On Possession And Growing Weed In North Carolina?
Law On Possession
At the time of writing, the current laws for possession are as follows.
- People caught carrying fourteen grams or less (half an ounce) are subject to a misdemeanor charge and a $200 fine.
- If you are caught with between fourteen grams to one and a half ounces, you may be subject to up to 45 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
- Anyone found to be in possession of between one and a half ounces and ten pounds may face a felony charge, three to eight months in jail, and a $1,000 fine.
- If you are caught with over ten pounds of cannabis in North Carolina, you are in for a bad day indeed. Felony charges will most definitely be pursued, and a long stint in jail will surely follow, as will large fines.
Law On Growing
In terms of cannabis cultivation
- It is a felony to grow any amount of cannabis in North Carolina.
- Less than 10 pounds (4,535 g) will result in a three to eight month jail term, and up to $1,000 in fines.
- Larger amounts come with longer jail terms and much heavier fines.
It is safe to say that growing weed in North Carolina comes with the risk of significant jail time and heavy fines. If you want to grow your own weed, it may be best to look at other states.
Is Medical Marijuana Legal In North Carolina?
Yes, and no.
It is only legal for one specific condition (intractable epilepsy), and even then, there are no legal avenues for patients to access medical cannabis.
While cannabis is not fully legalized for medical use in North Carolina, it has been partially decriminalized for the treatment of intractable epilepsy. This means that anyone with a diagnosis of the condition is allowed to possess and use CBD oil, providing it contains less than 0.9% THC and at least 5% CBD.
There is hope that this will change in the near future, with many groups lobbying the state government to fully legalize medical marijuana in the state.
How Do You Get A Medical Marijuana License In North Carolina?
As we mentioned above, you must be suffering from intractable epilepsy to be considered a possible medical marijuana patient in North Carolina. Currently, North Carolina does not have a medical marijuana licensing program.
Who Qualifies For A Medical Marijuana Card In North Carolina?
Only people suffering from intractable epilepsy are considered to be legitimate medicinal cannabis patients in North Carolina.
Does North Carolina Recognize Medical Marijuana Cards From Other States?
Unfortunately, unlike many states, North Carolina does not presently recognize medical marijuana cards from other states.
Final Thoughts On Cannabis Laws In North Carolina
It is safe to say that North Carolina has some of the most Draconian laws in the US when it comes to cannabis. While some progress has been made over the last few years, much more needs to be done if North Carolina wants to avoid being left behind in the legal weed revolution.
We can only hope that the state government will soon realize the medical and economic benefits of cannabis and make the necessary changes to bring North Carolina into line with the vast majority of the rest of the country. And with it looking more and more likely that we will soon see federal legalization, we can only hope that North Carolina will be ready to join the party.
Until then, stay safe and stay informed.