North Carolina lawmakers are closer than ever to reducing marijuana possession laws. A new bill would retroactively clear some marijuana possession charges and increase the amount of marijuana one can carry without facing charges. Here’s a look at North Carolina’s current legislation, and what one lawmaker from Mecklenburg County is hoping to pass.
North Carolina’s Outdated Marijuana Laws
North Carolina doesn’t have a wide-ranging medical marijuana program. Back in 2014, lawmakers approved CBD for epilepsy. To date, that’s the only condition that qualifies for medical marijuana in the state.
Despite the state’s conservatism, Democratic lawmakers are trying to get a program through the legislature. This past February, Representative Kelly Alexander proposed his latest effort to legalize medical marijuana. He’s been trying to do so since he assumed office in 2009.
And North Carolinians are behind him. According to a poll conducted by Elon University last year, 80 percent of voters support medical marijuana legalization. Forty-five percent would vote for recreational as well.
As the law stands, possession of more than 0.5 ounces of marijuana is a Class I misdemeanor. This means that you can receive a small amount of jail time, and a fine numbering in the thousands of dollars. More than 1.5 ounces is a felony.
Recently, Rep. Alexander shifted his focus from medical marijuana to penalties for possession. Last Wednesday, this Mecklenburg County representative proposed House Bill 994. This legislation would up the amount for a misdemeanor to 4 ounces. Only possession of over 16 ounces of weed would qualify as a felony.
Furthermore, anyone who was found guilty of possession for less than the new amounts could have their record retroactively expunged. This would require a petition to the state and payment of $100.
Legislators Have Mixed Feelings About Marijuana
Rep. Alexander has been a longtime crusader for marijuana reform. Other lawmakers, Carla Cunningham, Mary Belk, Rodney Moore, John Autry, and John Bradford III also support medical marijuana.
Many other lawmakers are resistant to the idea. Senator Jeff Tarte, whose own wife used medical marijuana to quell chemotherapy nausea, worries about the cost. “There’s great concern over the overall healthcare costs to the state. As people start using this drug, there’s issues that the state is stepping up to take care of these folks,” Tart explained.
But Representative Alexander believes that he’s making some headway against the stoner stereotype. “Whether it’s Cheech and Chong, Harold and Kumar – pick your comedian. Too many folks in the legislature viewed cannabis when you first started talking about it in those terms,” he told Fox 46.
North Carolina Has Made Some Progress
Public opinion has come a long way in North Carolina. Alexander stated, “Over the last four years, maybe five, the population has become much more accepting us changing our laws to permit medical marijuana.” Now, more citizens and lawmakers are open to medical marijuana, and hopefully reducing marijuana possession penalties.
The state has also been quietly rebuilding its hemp farming industry. Last year, High Times went behind the scenes with the biggest hemp grower in North America to talk about the state’s first legal harvest, and the many uses for hemp, like extracting CBD.