Hemp is now permanently legal in North Carolina thanks to a bill signed into law by the state’s governor.
The legislation was one of three measures signed on Thursday by Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat. As written, the bill will permanently remove hemp from the state’s list of controlled substances, which brings North Carolina in line with federal law.
Cooper hailed the bill as a win for Tar Heel State farmers.
“Agriculture is North Carolina’s largest industry and giving North Carolina farmers certainty that they can continue to participate in this growing market is the right thing to do for rural communities and our economy,” Cooper said in a statement following the bill’s signing.
Changes to federal law over the last eight years have made it possible for states to cultivate hemp, a policy that has been a boon to the agriculture community.
In 2014, Congress passed a Farm Bill that enabled state governments and research institutions to cultivate and produce hemp under so-called “pilot programs.”
The 2018 Farm Bill changed national policy over hemp entirely by removing it from the federal Controlled Substances Act.
As the National Conference of State Legislatures explained: “The 2018 Farm Bill allows states and tribes to submit a plan and apply for primary regulatory authority over the production of hemp in their state or in their tribal territory. As described in the USDA interim final rule, a state plan must include certain requirements, such as keeping track of land, testing methods, and disposal of plants or products that exceed the allowed THC concentration. The USDA will review and issue a decision within 60 days on plans submitted by a state to the agency with the goal of providing states enough time to implement their plan before the 2020 hemp season.”
North Carolina had treated its hemp cultivation as a pilot program, which was scheduled to lapse at the end of June. The bill signed into law on Thursday by Cooper extends the program beyond that month, and into the future.
The measure had overwhelming support in North Carolina’s Republican-controlled general assembly, with members of the state Senate passing the bill unanimously in May.
The hemp bill fared better than a proposal to legalize medical cannabis in North Carolina. Members of the state Senate approved that legislation last month by a vote of 35-10, but has stalled in the state House of Representatives.
The bill would permit patients with the following qualifying conditions to receive medical cannabis as a treatment: Cancer; Epilepsy; Positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS); Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); Crohn’s disease; Sickle cell anemia; Parkinson’s disease; Post-traumatic stress disorder, subject to evidence that an applicant experienced one or more traumatic events; Multiple sclerosis; Cachexia or wasting syndrome; Severe or persistent nausea in a person who is not pregnant that is related to end-of-life or hospice care, or who is bedridden or homebound because of a condition; a terminal illness when the patient’s remaining life expectancy is less than six months; or a condition resulting in the individual receiving hospice care.
Polls have shown that North Carolina voters are broadly supportive of both medical and recreational cannabis.
Seventy-two percent of registered voters in the state said they are in favor of medical cannabis use, according to a survey released in April. The same poll found that 57% of North Carolina voters believe recreational cannabis should be legal, too.
Support for medical cannabis included 64% of North Carolina Republicans, 46% of whom said they are in favor of recreational pot being made legal.