What Virginia’s Marijuana Legalization Bill Means for North Carolina

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Virginia becomes the first state in the Southeast to move forward with adult-use marijuana legalization. In February 2021, Virginia’s General Assembly officially voted to legalize recreational marijuana for adult use. With so many other states moving to legalize cannabis, Virginia’s legalization may not seem like huge news. But, for the southern United States and for the neighboring state of North Carolina, this is a huge step forward. 

The sale of legal marijuana in Virginia wont go into effect until January 1st, 2024. However, Governor Ralph Northam recently fast tracked the process by moving the legalization date to July 2021. What does that mean for Virginians? 

While the sale and distribution of marijuana won’t become fully legal until 2024, simple possession and cultivation is legal beginning in July of this year. Virginians 21 and older can possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to four marijuana plants at home. 

Virginia is now the first state in the South to legalize recreational cannabis. What does that mean for North Carolina?

The History of Legalization in North Carolina

The southern U.S. has historically been behind in cannabis legalization, even though hemp used to be a cash crop for much of the region. While some states, including North Carolina, have relaxed restrictions on cannabis, full legalization seems far out of reach. 

In 1977, North Carolina took advantage of a brief wave of decriminalization and eased restrictions on cannabis. To avoid excess jail sentences, North Carolina reduced penalties for small amounts of cannabis possession. Possession of 0.5 ounces or less was now only a misdemeanor with no jail time. This law is still in effect today.

Possession over 0.5 ounces, cultivation, possession of marijuana concentrates or intent to distribute charges comes with heavy fines and long jail sentences. 

For patients who rely on cannabis for pain management, and the 40,000 Americans currently incarcerated for marijuana-related charges, legalization is the light at the end of the tunnel. 

Hemp and CBD in North Carolina

While North Carolina may be behind on marijuana legalization, it has become a leader in hemp and CBD production. With the Industrial Hemp Pilot Program, North Carolina farmers can grow legal hemp by obtaining a license. As other agricultural commodities like tobacco are decreasing in demand, this is a lifeline for many North Carolinian farmers. 

With industrial hemp becoming federally legal in 2018, the CBD and hemp processing industry has exploded. As of 2021, there were almost 2200 registered hemp processors in North Carolina.

Moving Towards Federal Legalization?

Virginia’s legalization continues the trend of states reversing marijuana prohibition across the country. The US Congress will reintroduce the M.O.R.E Act to federally legalize marijuana and promote social equity in the industry as early as June 2021 in the House, and its text will contain at least two notable changes compared to the last version of the legislation.

The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), cleared the chamber in a historic vote last year but did not advance in the Senate under GOP control. Now, with the Senate under Democratic control, the bill should have a vote by the end of 2021. Additionally, this move comes on the heels of a letter to the White House in May of 2021 where 30 Democratic lawmakers urged President Joe Biden to reconsider the decision to fire five White House staffers for marijuana usage.

Will North Carolina make the jump to marjiuana legalization? 

Unlike many other legal states, North Carolina lacks citizen-led ballot campaigns to approve legalization. That doubled with a historically conservative General Assembly, cannabis legislation is often DOA before it has a chance. 

A recent poll conducted by Elon University states that most North Carolinians are in support of relaxed marijuana laws. 73 percent support medical marijuana legalization, while 54 percent support full legalization. Three out of four participants believed that marijuana is “not a gateway drug” and won’t lead to an increase in crime. 

Experts believe that the General Assembly is becoming more aware of the public’s support. And, Virginia’s recent legalization may be another big push towards relaxed laws in North Carolina. 

In the meantime, we have all the legal hemp products you need for pain management and relaxation. Stop by our store today or check out our online shop.

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