Lets be blunt: Talking marijuana legalization in N.C.

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Not to be blunt, but it’s April 20th, a.k.a 420, which has become known as as “weed day” throughout the U.S. It’s also a perfect time to look into N.C.’s marijuana laws.

And, in the state, it’s not legal recreationally nor medically.

Three bills– HB 185, SB 648 + SB 579, referred to together as the North Carolina Medical Cannabis Act – were introduced last year in North Carolina to protect medical marijuana users, but they failed to receive a committee vote (meaning they weren’t even considered by the N.C. legislature).

Marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I Drug by the federal government. Schedule I Drugs are defined as drugs with little to no medical value and high potential for addiction. But states are starting to reexamine the classification because of research that shows marijuana’s potential benefits for medical conditions like chronic pain, seizures + mental disorders.

It’s estimated that 80% of North Carolinians support legalizing marijuana for medical use. 83% of voters identifying as Democrats and independents supported legalization, with Republicans not far behind, at 73% support legalization. The percentages are far lower for recreational use – 45% overall approve.

Currently, possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana is technically a misdemeanor and may result in a fine ($200 max), but won’t land anyone in jail unless they have prior offenses. Between ½ and 1 ½ oz is a Class I misdemeanor, with potential jail time up to 45 days and up to a $1000 fine. Over 1 ½ oz is a Class I felony and could result in up to 12 months in prison. Consequences are more severe if intent to distribute is found. The max fine for sales/trafficking is $200,000 and up to 20 years in prison.

But if it’s illegal, then why is it still legal to purchase glass pieces from local smoke shops? Technically, those pieces are meant to be used for smoking tobacco. Unless there is marijuana residue on it, it’s just considered a glass piece, not drug paraphernalia.

There are 20 shops that sell smoking + tobacco accessories in Asheville. Octopus Garden, one of the longest running, has 8 locations.

How do we compare to other states?

💨 In South Carolina, possessing one ounce or less (first offense) can result in 30 days incarceration or a maximum $200 fine. A subsequent offense can mean up to a year in prison and a $2,000 maximum fine.

💨In Georgia, possessing an ounce or less of marijuana is considered a misdemeanor, with up to a year of imprisonment or a $1,000 fine. The city of Atlanta decriminalized the possession )of one ounce or less of marijuana) in January and now has a max fine of $75 for one ounce or less.

💨 In Tennessee, possessing ½ oz or less is a misdemeanor, with up to a year of imprisonment and a max fine of $250. A subsequent offense could mean up to a year in prison and a $500 fine.

💨 In Florida, the recreational use of marijuana is still illegal, but medical marijuana was legalized in 2016.

Find out why local farmers are excited about growing hemp, what CBD oil is + where to buy products that include it (CBD lattes, anyone?), and which District Attorney candidate in Buncombe County supports legalization.  

Hemp: N.C.’s most promising cash crop?

Hemp is a distinct variety of Cannabis sativa that is the same species as marijuana but is not genetically or chemically similar to it. Hemp contains less than .3 percent THC. After growing industrial hemp was legalized in 2016 as part of the Pilot Research Program, the state formed an Industrial Hemp Commission and several farms in the area started growing the crop, which is praised for its hardiness and is used in everything from cosmetics and food to textiles.  

The first industrial hemp crop in the state was planted in spring 2017. Franny’s Farm, in Leicester, partnered with HempX to plant two acres of hemp crop last June. HempX also hosts their signature festival, a hemp education festival, at Franny’s Farm–this year it’s scheduled for September 21 – 23. They’ll also host a Hemp History Celebration at the farm on June 5.

Other growers in the area include Carolina Hemp Co. in Woodfin and the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center in Mills River.

Want to learn more? Head to White Labs Kitchen and Tap (172 S. Charlotte St.) for the Hemp, Hops + Truffles event on May 13 from 6 – 9 p.m., hosted by NCSU researcher Jeanine Davis of the Extension Center.

Interested in growing industrial hemp? Apply to be part of the pilot program here.

The CBD oil boom

The CBD business is big in Asheville. You can purchase oil, salve, bath bombs and lotion, or enjoy it in everything from chocolate to lattes at spots like Dobra Tea. You can even buy CBD products for your pets.

But what exactly is CBD?

CBD stands for Cannabidiol, a compound derived from cannabis that is non-psychoactive or less psychoactive than THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana). CBD is extracted from CBD-rich or CBD-dominant strains of cannabis (as opposed to THC-rich or dominant) and contains no higher than .05 percent of THC if it’s derived from industrial hemp.

CBD has potential as a treatment for everything from depression and arthritis to antibiotic-resistant infections. People often report feeling mild relaxation or no effects at all from CBD.   

CBD oil derived from industrial hemp is legal throughout the United States.

Find CBD products sold or made in Asheville at Blue Ridge Hemp Co. (61 ½ N. Lexington Ave.), Carolina Hemp Company (406 Elk Park Dr., Woodfin), Dobra Tea (78 N. Lexington Ave. + 707 Haywood Rd.), Nature’s Vitamins & Herbs (752 Biltmore Ave.), Goddess Ghee + New Life CBD Oil.   

Do you support decriminalization of marijuana? Buncombe County District Attorney candidate Ben Scales has been actively involved in the legalization movement and it’s a central part of his campaign platform. He’ll go up against incumbent Todd Williams in the May 8 primary (early voting is happening now).