North Carolina Marijuana Laws
Updated September 2019
Despite recent efforts to improve marijuana policy in North Carolina, the state’s cannabis laws are among the most restrictive in the nation. Learn more about North Carolina marijuana laws below.
Recreational Marijuana in North Carolina
Prior to the waves of legalization and decriminalization in the United States over the last several years, North Carolina was one of the more lenient states when it came to penalties for marijuana possession.
Possession of 0.5 ounces or less of marijuana is a Class 3 misdemeanor and punishable by a maximum fine of $200. Possession of 0.5 to 1.5 ounces is a Class 1 misdemeanor offense punishable by up to 45 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Possession of more than 1.5 ounces is a Class 1 felony offense, punishable by 3 to 8 months imprisonment and a discretionary fine.
Crimes involving the sale, delivery, the intent to distribute, or cultivation are also felonies.
Medical Marijuana in North Carolina
There is currently no comprehensive medical marijuana policy in North Carolina.
North Carolina did sign a low-THC medical cannabis bill, House Bill 1220, into law on July 3, 2014. Like most other restrictive medical cannabis laws, it gives only intractable epilepsy patients access to the extracts. The bill further states that cannabis oil must contain less than 0.9% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The bill does not contain any provisions to produce or distribute cannabis oil within the state.
The state legislature has introduced multiple medical marijuana bills, none have gained significant traction or been signed into law. The most recent medical marijuana bill in North Carolina, House Bill 401, was introduced in March 2019, but it has yet to make it through committee.
CBD from Hemp Oil in North Carolina
Hemp-derived CBD products are legal under Federal Law in the United States; however, individual state laws are dynamic and fluid. Individual states may enact their own laws governing hemp-derived CBD.
Cultivation of Cannabis in North Carolina
Cultivating cannabis for personal or medical purposes is illegal in North Carolina. The state prosecutes cannabis cultivation as a felony, with even cultivation of small amounts leading to as much as 8 months in prison and a $1,000 fine.
On October 30, 2015, a bill legalizing industrial hemp cultivation became law despite not receiving the signature of Governor Pat McCroy. Under Senate Bill 313, a new industrial hemp commission will manage the commercial growers and researchers of the statewide program.
Legal Status of Other U.S. States
Stay up to date on the latest state legislation, referendums, and public opinion polls. Our Marijuana Legalization Map allows you to browse the current status of medical and recreational marijuana laws in other U.S. states and territories.
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NC Marijuana Qualification
Updated on May 11, 2020. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
North Carolina Medical Marijuana Qualifications
Who Qualifies for Medicinal Marijuana in North Carolina
The medical marijuana program in North Carolina only recently started. Before 2014, there was no provision for the medical use of cannabis products in the state. Since most state medical marijuana programs are restricted to residents, patients living in North Carolina who suffer from debilitating conditions had no legal source of marijuana therapy.
North Carolina’s medical marijuana program is expanding. From 2014 to 2015 access for patients was increased, and more doctors were allowed to make recommendations. A new medical marijuana bill introduced by state lawmakers in 2017 would greatly expand the program to treat a list of conditions and make marijuana accessible to more patients. House Bill 185, the North Carolina Medical Cannabis Act, would establish a medical marijuana program where patients could register for identification cards.
History of Medical Marijuana in North Carolina
In 2014, North Carolina began to recognize the benefits of marijuana for treating seizure disorders by passing a very limited medical marijuana law. Known as the Hope 4 Haley and Friends Act, this initial legislation allowed doctors affiliated with the neurology departments at Wake Forest University, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University and East Carolina University to recommend cannabis for their patients.
This limited study in the medical benefits of marijuana was applied only to seizure disorders. The marijuana recommended was predominantly CBD, with only trace amounts of THC allowed. Patients in this program were issued a medical marijuana card and allowed to possess the cannabis products that were recommended by their neurologist.
Doctors making recommendations of marijuana therapy had to be registered with the study at one of these four universities. Their patients’ data was tracked and used to provide medical evidence that a state marijuana program is warranted. Neurologists dispensed the hemp oil used in this program that could only contain 0.3 percent THC and had to be at least 10% CBD.
The following year, the governor signed a new law expanding the use of marijuana for medical purposes. This new medical marijuana program is still restrictive by many standards, and it will sunset in 2021.
Current NC Medical Marijuana Qualifications
The North Carolina Epilepsy Alternative Treatment Act enacted in August 2016 is the marijuana state law currently in effect. It stipulates provisions for board-certified neurologists to recommend marijuana treatment even if they are not affiliated with the four universities originally identified. Neurologists can be associated with any state-licensed hospital.
There are no age restrictions on marijuana patients in North Carolina, but only those diagnosed with epilepsy can qualify for medical marijuana therapy. Among epilepsy sufferers, only the most severe cases can be treated with cannabis, and the treatment must be recommended by a neurologist.
The content of the cannabis extracts used for treating patients in North Carolina is restricted to 0.9% THC. The minimum amount of CBD in the treatment is 5%. CBD is the cannabinoid most effective at reducing seizures. The current medical marijuana program in North Carolina is focused on this one positive outcome that cannabis can provide.
How to Apply for Medical Marijuana in NC
If you are looking for relief from intractable epilepsy that has not responded, or no longer responds, to conventional pharmacology, medical marijuana may be the right treatment for you. To begin the application process for your North Carolina medical marijuana card, search for a marijuana doctor in North Carolina.
Only neurologists are able to recommend medical marijuana treatments. We maintain a database of doctors who are willing to recommend marijuana for patients who qualify. Here is more information about getting your North Carolina medical marijuana card.
Learn more about qualifying for medical marijuana in North Carolina. Get info on qualifying conditions and find local doctors at Marijuana Doctors.