North Carolina

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Cannabis in North Carolina

All forms of recreational cannabis are illegal (albeit decriminalized) in North Carolina, where access to low-potency medical cannabis is also heavily restricted.

North Carolina is one of several north American states to adopt an extremely conservative and somewhat regressive approach to cannabis legislation. All forms of recreational use is illegal, while multiple attempts to bring in a fair and accessible medical marijuana system have been shot down by lawmakers.

Even where medical cannabis is available in North Carolina – restricted to a select few patients only – it must be administered in the form of CBD oil with a THC content of less than 0.9%. Possession and consumption of all other types of pot is strictly prohibited – penalties varying from citations to extensive jail time.

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Recreational Marijuana in North Carolina

Recreational weed in all its forms is illegal in North Carolina. There are no allowances for buying, selling, carrying or cultivating recreational cannabis – all of which are prohibited statewide.

Though North Carolina’s pot policy isn’t exactly progressive, the state isn’t particularly heavy handed when it comes to cannabis-related crimes. For example, anyone caught in possession of less than half an ounce of cannabis for personal use (as a first-time offender) faces a maximum $200 fine. For quantities between half an ounce and 1.5 ounces, this is increased to a fine of up to $1000 and a maximum prison sentence of 45 days.

However, anyone caught in possession of more than 1.5 ounces will be charged with a Class 1 felony, which could mean up to eight months behind bars. Hence, North Carolina is not the place to push your luck with the law.


Medical Marijuana in North Carolina

Medical marijuana (MMJ) is something of a grey area in North Carolina. Technically speaking, a rudimentary medical cannabis bill was brought into effect in July 2014. However, the policy was and is so remarkably restrictive that it is of little to no value to the vast majority of patients who could benefit from therapeutic use.

North Carolina’s low-THC bill exclusively permits the use of approved cannabis oils that contain no more than 0.9% THC.


medical marijuana in bag

In addition, such products can only be prescribed to patients with severe forms of epilepsy.  Multiple subsequent MMJ bills have been brought before legislators over the years, though have failed to gain any real traction. The most recent of which being in March 2019, which still has a long way to go before being put to the vote.

Interestingly, the policy that effectively legalized the limited use of medical cannabis oil also included a ‘sunset clause’. This effectively means that if studies approved by the state fail to confirm the effectiveness of CBD by 2021, it will become illegal once again. A relatively unlikely eventuality, but one that could potentially propel the state’s medical pot policy even further back into the dark ages.


Cultivating Cannabis in North Carolina

In accordance with current cannabis policy, there is no allowance for the legal cultivation of marijuana in North Carolina. All types of cultivation constitute felony offences, meaning a fine of up to $1000 and a maximum eight months in jail for growing even a single plant at home. 

This applies to both recreational and medical users, with no allowances for therapeutic pot patients to grow their own.


What Conditions Qualify for Medical Marijuana in North Carolina?

North Carolina’s MMJ program currently allows low-THC cannabis oil to be prescribed and used exclusively for the treatment of intractable epilepsy. Efforts are, however, underway in 2020 to expand the program in a way that would allow patients with multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and autism to access medical marijuana products, but no real progress has been made to date.

Only those who are diagnosed with the most severe cases of epilepsy will be considered for a medical cannabis recommendation. Even then, the treatment must be further recommended by an authorized neurologist.


How to Apply for Medical Marijuana in NC

If you believe you are a viable candidate for MMJ in North Carolina, you will first need to find an authorized marijuana doctor in your vicinity. It’s important to note that the recommendation for medical marijuana will only be provided if other conventional treatments have proved ineffective or are deemed unsuitable for your condition.

Your final recommendation for medical cannabis will be issued and authorized by a qualified and licensed neurologist, after which your application will be processed online.


Decriminalization of Cannabis in North Carolina

While it may have one of the less developed MMJ programs in the United States, North Carolina was nonetheless one of the first to effectively decriminalize small-scale possession. Since 1977, individuals caught with small quantities of cannabis on their person for their own personal use have been liable for a maximum fine of $200. This applies to first-time offenders only and where the total quantity of cannabis is less than half an ounce.

However, it’s still possible to be sent straight to jail as a first-time offender, if caught with more than half an ounce of weed on your person. In which case, you could be looking at anything from 45 days to eight months in jail.