The legalization of marijuana has been a hot topic in the past few years, with 23 states along with the District of Colombia having laws that legalize marijuana use in some form.
Some states have passed medical marijuana laws. Some states have passed laws legalizing marijuana for recreational use. And some states have decriminalized small amounts of marijuana use by replacing penalties with small fines.
North Carolina doesn’t have any laws legalizing marijuana on the books. But that might change soon.
In Cherokee County, North Carolina, leaders on the Cherokee Indian Reservation passed a resolution that allows a study to find out how marijuana could be used on the reservation. The study will look at things like whether or not the tribe could use medical marijuana with a written prescription or whether they could sell it in dispensaries.
Last year, the government decided to allow tribes – like states – to have the option to legalize marijuana. Even though Cherokee is in North Carolina, it is its own sovereign nation and is no longer governed by North Carolina laws.
Only time will tell whether the Cherokee Indian Reservation will legalize marijuana. But with Cherokee County covering nearly 6,000 acres of land, the Cherokee County sheriff’s office is worried about having to enforce drug laws on the highways between the tribe and the rest of state. Although marijuana might become legal on the Cherokee reservation, marijuana use is still illegal under North Carolina laws.
Marijuana Laws and Penalties in North Carolina
Until marijuana is legalized in North Carolina, it is still a crime that carries penalties. However, marijuana has been decriminalized slightly for first time offenders. If you are caught with a small amount of marijuana for the first time for personal use, it will be treated like a minor traffic violation with no prison time or criminal record.
Outside of that, marijuana possession, sale, and cultivation could bring a misdemeanor or felony charge that is punishable by fines and jail time.
If you are caught with marijuana for personal use, the laws are:
- If you have 0.5 ounces or less, it is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $200.
- If you have more than 0.5 ounces but less than 1.5 ounces, it is a misdemeanor punishable by 1-45 days in jail and a fine up to $1,000.
- If you have more than 1.5 ounces but less than 10 pounds, it is a felony punishable by 3 to 8 months in jail and a fine up to $1,000.
Possession with Intent to Sell or Deliver
If you are caught with marijuana with the intent to sell or distribute, you will be charged with a felony and punished according to the amount of marijuana.
- Less than 10 pounds of marijuana is punishable by 4-8 months in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.
- 10-50 pounds of marijuana is punishable by at least 25 months in jail and up to a $5,000 fine.
- 50-2000 pounds of marijuana is punishable by at least 35 months in jail and up to a $25,000 fine.
- 2,000-10,000 pounds of marijuana is punishable by at least 70 months in jail and up to a $50,000 fine.
- If you sell to a minor or pregnant woman, you can face 3-8 years in jail.
- If you sell within 1,000 feet of a school, childcare facility, or park, you can face 1-3 years in jail.
If you are caught growing your own marijuana plants, you will face a felony charge and be punished according to the amount of marijuana plants.
- Less than 10 pounds of plants is punishable by 3-8 months in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.
- 10-50 pounds is punishable by a minimum of 2 years in jail and up to a $5,000 fine.
- 50-2,000 pounds is punishable by a minimum of 3 years in jail and up to a $25,000 fine.
Use, sale, distribution, or manufacturing paraphernalia is illegal in North Carolina. You can be charged with a misdemeanor and face 1-45 days in jail and up to a $1,000 fine. If you sell paraphernalia to a minor who is at least 3 years younger, you can be charged with a felony and face 3-8 months in jail.
Even though marijuana usage might be legal in other states, it is still a crime in North Carolina and the penalties should be taken seriously. If you have been arrested or charged with a marijuana offense, contact an experienced marijuana criminal defense attorney to understand your rights and what options are available to you.
About the Author
Attorney Mike Schlosser represents victims of personal injury, those charged with a crime, as well as those facing traffic charges. A former Guilford County, North Carolina District Attorney, Schlosser has been in private practice at the Law Firm of Schlosser & Pritchett since 1983 and has been a member of the North Carolina State Bar since 1973.