The United States is changing its position on pot. Marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, but individual states are legalizing both medicinal and recreational marijuana use.
Ten states (and Washington D.C.) allow individuals to carry up to one ounce (28 grams) of pot for personal consumption to date.
In North Carolina, carrying one ounce of marijuana is a misdemeanor. If you are caught with just a little bit more (1.5 oz,), however, you could face felony charges. Plenty of North Carolinians are currently sitting behind bars for crossing that line.
Seem harsh? It is – but it looks like times may be changing.
HB 766 and Similar Bills Attempt to Loosen NC Marijuana Laws
A collection of bills is currently sitting in the House that could loosen marijuana possession laws, thus keeping more non-violent offenders out of jail.
If you support the legalization of marijuana, consider reaching out to your local lawmakers and asking them to support HB 766, SB 58, and HB 401.
HB 766 Proposes We Raise Thresholds on Personal Possession
This bill decriminalizes possession of four ounces of marijuana or less. Having an ounce of marijuana on your person wouldn’t be enough to go to jail for the night (or months at a time).
HB 766 also proposes that the felony threshold for marijuana possession should be raised to a full 16 ounces. Marijuana will still be illegal, but it won’t be a felony charge unless you are caught with one or more pounds of weed.
Although democratic lawmakers introduced HB 766 to the House in April, Republican lawmakers appear to be hesitant to support it. We haven’t seen it hasn’t moved past a first read-through.
While HB 766 hangs in the balance, we see other bills put forward that aim to loosen marijuana laws and move the state closer to legalization, too.
SB 58 Raises HB 766 with Proposal to Make Expunction Easier
Senate Bill 58 is very similar to HB 766. If SB 58 is passed, possessing four ounces of marijuana wouldn’t result in any criminal charges.
The bill also aims to make expunction easier for people who have been charged with marijuana crimes in the past. We believe this element is key to improving the state as a whole.
Criminal records hold a lot of former offenders back from getting jobs or furthering their education. Wiping away some of these less severe charges can help to move a large number of North Carolinians forward in life.
SB 58 was filed in February but currently faces the same fate as HB 766 with the House.
HB 401 Approaches Cannabis Reform Differently
House Bill 401 approaches marijuana reform in a different way than either HB 766 or SB 58.
This bill would legalize medical marijuana only. Recreational marijuana would still be illegal if this bill passed, but patients would be able to breathe easy, accessing cannabis for conditions like MS or epilepsy.
A number of states have taken this approach with success, and it may be our best chance for progress on this front right now. Still, HB 401, filed in March of this year also sits waiting to be scheduled for further debate.
None of these bills will get very far without citizens voicing their support. Find your local lawmakers and tell them whether you support these bills.
But the Sale and Trafficking of Weed Would Still Be Illegal in NC
These laws only address marijuana possession. Marijuana sale and trafficking would remain felony offenses.
Selling as little as five grams of pot is a Class I felony in North Carolina. While these charges are North Carolina’s least severe, but you could still end up behind bars for a year.
So you may be asking yourself how could any of these bills directly affect me?
North Carolina Felony vs. Misdemeanor Charges
We repeat, HB 766 includes a statute increasing the felony threshold for possession, and the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor in North Carolina is significant.
It would also create a situation that makes leaving your past behind you a whole lot easier when you have made mistakes.
If HB 766 passes, many offenders will be spared the embarrassment of ticking boxes on job applications disclosing their criminal history. They won’t lose as many rights while incarcerated or after they are released. Applying for criminal record expungement will be even easier.
Felonies also add up. North Carolina follows a complicated system that takes your crimes and criminal history into account when coming up with sentencing. The fewer felonies on your record, the less time you will have to do in the future.
Remember, These North Carolina Bills Haven’t Passed Yet
It is exciting to think of how these pieces of legislation could improve the criminal justice system in North Carolina but don’t celebrate yet.
Possessing any amount of marijuana is currently illegal in the state. If you have been arrested for marijuana possession, it’s time to reach out to a lawyer and fight your charges.