North Carolina medical cannabis bill introduced
Last update: July 10, 2019
In 2018, voters in three states — Missouri, Oklahoma, and Utah — approved compassionate medical cannabis laws, bringing the total number of states with effective medical cannabis laws to 33. Sadly, North Carolina is one of the remaining 17 states that criminalizes patients who use a far safer treatment option than opioids.
Unfortunately, voters can’t place measures on the ballot in North Carolina. But with more and more states enacting medical cannabis laws, and 80% of North Carolina voters in support, pressure is building on the state legislature.
On March 20, 2019, 19 cosponsors introduced H 401, a comprehensive medical cannabis bill. Please tell your lawmakers to support compassionate medical marijuana legislation during the 2019-2020 session!
Five years ago, North Carolina took a small step forward, enacting a CBD-focused law for patients with intractable seizure disorders. The law leaves most patients behind and fails to provide an in-state source for cannabis extracts. For more information, please see our summary of the law.
In 2019, the Senate approved a bill to expand the CBD-focused law to include autism, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, mitochondrial disease, and other conditions that failed to respond to at least three other treatment options. However, the bill — S 168 — has not advanced out of committee in the House. Unlike H 401 and comprehensive medical marijuana laws, it also fails to provide any way to safely access medical cannabis preparations, and it only allows between 0.3% and 0.9% THC cannabis, which is less THC than many patients need.
The legislature has adjourned for the year, but will return in 2020 for the rest of its two-year legislative session. Let your lawmakers know you want them to put compassion on the agenda.
Decriminalization and prohibition
North Carolina is one of 26 states that have enacted laws to stop jailing those who possess small amounts of marijuana — at least for a first offense. Back in 1977, the legislature approved a significant reduction in penalties, which has been so non-controversial many people don’t even know about it. However, the law is among the weakest decriminalization laws in the nation — a suspended sentence is possible for a first offense, and the offense carries the lasting stigma of a misdemeanor charge instead of a civil violation.
In addition, like most states that have marijuana prohibition, people of color are disproportionately arrested or cited for marijuana offenses. According to government data compiled by the ACLU, while blacks make up 22% of the population in North Carolina, they account for 50% of marijuana related arrests or citations, despite the fact that whites and blacks use cannabis at similar rates.
Senators Paul Lowe, Valerie Foushee, Toby Fitch, and cosponsors introduced S 58, which would make it legal to possess up to four ounces of marijuana. It would also allow for convictions for up to three ounces of cannabis to be removed from one’s criminal record. A similar bill was introduced in 2018.
To stay updated on the status of marijuana policy reform in North Carolina, be sure to subscribe to MPP’s free legislative alert service, if you haven’t done so already.