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Saturday, May 18, 2024

N.C. General Assembly takes another stab at passing marijuana bill

New legislation making its way through the N.C. general assembly could legalize possession of up to 2 ounces of marijuana for individuals ages 21 and older. (Port City Daily/file)

Momentum on the legalization of marijuana will make its way through the general assembly again this month. Pending legislation, introduced Monday, could legalize and regulate the use, possession and retail sale of marijuana for adults in North Carolina.

North Carolina is one of six states where all uses of marijuana — including medical — are still illegal. Others include Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, South Carolina and Wyoming.

According to statewide polling data from Nexstar Media Group and Emerson College, more than half, 54%, of North Carolina voters support the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. Nearly three-quarters of residents, 73%, approved of the use of medical marijuana.

N.C. Senate Bill 765 would allow individuals ages 21 and older to possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana or an equivalent amount of marijuana products. Anyone found to possess more than 2 ounces could face a civil penalty of $25 (for those possessing a pound or more, it would still carry a felony punishment). There would also be marketing and advertising restrictions associated with retail sales.

The bill would allow adults to grow up to two mature and two immature marijuana plants for personal use at home. Growers could share marijuana, as long as the transaction does not involve money.

Each plant would require a “registration” tag including the owner’s name, driver’s license number and a note indicating its for at-home personal use.

It would still be illegal to sell or distribute marijuana to anyone under 21, transport the drug in an open container or drive a vehicle while under the influence.

Under the legislation, a Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Board would be created with 20 members and would be administered out of the Department of Commerce. It would aim to address the economic disparities for families and communities affected by drug enforcement.

A Cannabis Control Commission would oversee the “sale, purchase, transportation, manufacture, consumption and possession” of marijuana. Its authority would supersede local ordinances or resolutions regulating retail marijuana or marijuana products.

There would be a 21% state tax on retail marijuana, products, paraphernalia, or associated items. Local municipalities could apply up to an additional 3% tax.

The 69-page bill, submitted by Democratic Sen. Toby Fitch (Wilson and Edgecombe counties), is more in-depth than a similar cannabis-legalization proposal from 2021, House Bill 617. The House bill was shelved following the 2021 session.

Bipartisan Senate Bill 711, also referred to as the N.C. Compassionate Care Act, is also making its way through the approval process. It would allow qualifying patients, with a physician’s recommendation, to access a 30-day supply of medical cannabis at a time, via licensed stores. The bill cleared three Senate committees during the 2021 session before stalling in August.

READ MORE: Medical weed bill tightened further, still moving in Senate

Senate Bill 765 passed a first reading in the Senate Tuesday and is now being reviewed by the Senate rules and operations committee.

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