While North Carolina is currently keeping marijuana out of the hands of its citizens, the future may be considerably brighter.
The state’s vast, fertile farmland once led the nation in tobacco production. Hundreds, if not thousands, of family-run farms both large and small dotted the state when tobacco was king. Now, many of those farms lay fallow, while others have switched to more socially acceptable crops such as corn, soybeans or cotton.
However, the conditions that made the Tar Heel State perfect for tobacco _ rich, sandy soil, mild winters, and a long hot summer _ also make it the perfect place for marijuana farming, a fact that is not lost among the many unofficial marijuana growing operations in the state.
North Carolina and weed are a match made in agricultural heaven.
If the state were to legalize marijuana possession and production, there would almost certainly be an explosion of new, legal marijuana farms, and a corresponding boom in the state’s economy. There have already been petitions to allow marijuana’s relative, hemp, to be grown in the state. There have been very, very early signs that the state may be coming to its sense regarding the legality of weed.
North Carolina has become one of 20 states in the nation to stop jailing first-time offenders for possession of marijuana. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the law is one of the weakest in the country, with many first-time offenders receiving suspended sentences for relatively small amounts of marijuana. Worse, the offense is treated as a misdemeanor, not a civil violation, which will be listed in any criminal records check on the individual.
The state has attempted two other legislative steps to decriminalize marijuana, with mixed success.
In 2014, the governor signed into law the North Carolina Epilepsy Alternative Treatment Act. The act allows patients with severe, incurable epilepsy to possess and use hemp extract to treat their condition.
While it does set up a number of strict conditions – a neurologist must prescribe it, the medication must be sourced from an authorized dispensary where medical marijuana is legally dispensed, the extract must contain least 5% cannabidiol (CBD) and less than 0.9% THC, and the act does not allow for any cultivation of marijuana – it was seen as a great leap forward for a state as historically conservative on drug policy as North Carolina.
A much more far-reaching, marijuana-friendly attempt at comprehensive marijuana legislation was almost immediately shut down in the following year. Rep. Kelly Alexander introduced sweeping legislation in Feb. 2015 that would have fully legalized the prescription, use and cultivation of medical marijuana in the state. The bill not only decriminalized medical marijuana use, it also provided for a system for cultivation, production and distribution of marijuana and marijuana products for medical use.
This revolutionary piece of legislation was killed in March of that year by the House Judiciary Committee, which questioned the legality of the proposal. However, the fact such landmark legislation was ever considered is nothing short of amazing for such a historically conservative state.
While the present state of marijuana in North Carolina is just more of the same old song of criminalization the future is very, very bright.
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