CBD vs. THC: The Laws in NC


CBD and THC are very different in terms of the laws in N.C. What is lawful and unlawful can be confusing. More and more states are legalizing marijuana, both for recreational and therapeutic purposes, as well as products containing CBD that are used for health-related issues. Laws in different states are at varying levels of strictness and N.C. has some of the most stringent CBD laws in the U.S. It’s important to understand the laws so you are informed of your obligations as either a user or seller of either CBD or THC in N.C. This article outlines the differences between CBD and THC and what the laws are in N.C. currently.

What are CBD and THC?

Marijuana and hemp are both cannabis but are different varieties of the Cannabis Sativa L. plant. CBD and THC are two natural compounds found in cannabis plants. CBD can be extracted from either marijuana or hemp. Hemp plants contain less than 0.3% THC while marijuana plants contain higher concentrations of THC.

CBD and THC have the same chemical formula: 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and two oxygen atoms. But, the way the atoms are arranged is different for each and this gives them very different chemical properties, which means they affect your body differently. Both CBD and THC release neurotransmitters in your brain that affect issues like pain, mood, sleep, and memory. Whereas THC produces a feeling of euphoria and users experience a feeling of being “high,” CBD does not.

CBD has more medicinal uses for health issues like arthritis, Crohn’s disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain. You can find CBD being sold in gels, gummies, oils, supplements, and extracts.

The average marijuana strain today has about 12% of THC. Note, however, that THC also has medicinal qualities and has led to the use of medical marijuana for such things as:

  • Multiple sclerosis pain
  • Nerve pain
  • Parkinson’s tremors
  • Nausea
  • Glaucoma

Marijuana and THC are on the list of controlled substances so they are prohibited federally. However, many states and Washington, DC have passed cannabis-related laws making medical marijuana with high levels of THC legal. With many states now allowing medical marijuana containing THC, yet with federal law stipulating that it is still illegal, there can be confusion for citizens as to what they can do lawfully. Basically, each state has adopted its own laws.

If you possess cannabis-related products in a state where they are illegal or if you don’t have a medical prescription where the products are legal for medical treatment, you could face legal penalties.

Additionally, Congress legalized hemp in 2018 as part of the Farm Bill so it is considered an agricultural product. Generally, if a state has legalized medical or recreational marijuana, you should be able to buy CBD.

However, there are still rules about where and how you can sell products that contain CBD. For example, you can’t sell some across state lines. All CBD products are illegal if they’re sold with the promise of medical benefits.

Marijuana N.C. Laws

Where does N.C. fall in the lawful or unlawful sides of CBD and THC? Hemp is a legal agricultural commodity in N.C.; marijuana is an illegal controlled substance under N.C. law.


In order to be legal, hemp and hemp products including CBD must contain less than 0.3% THC. Subject to certain administrative licensing and registration requirements stipulated in the hemp program for the state, it is legal to cultivate, process, transport, sell, and possess hemp and hemp products.


CBD (cannabidiol) and other cannabinoids that are derived from hemp (except for THC) are legal in N.C.

That being said, individuals using hemp and CBD products may find themselves facing criminal prosecution. Though the use and possession of hemp and CBD is not illegal, sometimes law enforcement has difficulty telling the difference between hemp and marijuana. It is an easy mistake because both the hemp flower and marijuana look and smell similar. Furthermore, the low levels of CBD can still test positive on a police officer’s field test.

Because legal hemp and CBD are very new to the market, police officers may not be trained on distinguishing the difference between hemp and marijuana. Until that happens, it is reasonable to expect a rise in the number of arrests and prosecutions of individuals and businesses that use or sell hemp products. A best practice is to have a product label or certificate of analysis for any hemp or hemp-derived product when you are in possession of these items in public places to show a law enforcement officer if you are stopped.

It is in your best interest to have a criminal defense attorney who is experienced in this specific area of the law.


For marijuana, under North Carolina law, individuals can be charged with:

  • Misdemeanor possession of marijuana (less than 1.5 oz)
  • Possession of marijuana (1.5 oz – 10 lbs; one-twentieth of an ounce of marijuana resin extract (hash, wax, shatter, vape, etc.) or any amount of synthetic THC)
  • Felony possession with intent to sell and/or deliver
  • Felony trafficking of marijuana (more than 10 pounds)

Federal marijuana laws also apply to offenses involving interstate commerce and importation from other countries.

Facing Marijuana Charges? Speak to a Marijuana Defense Lawyer

If you find yourself in a situation where you have violated the law or are charged with possession of marijuana or THC, contact a marijuana defense lawyer in Raleigh at (919) 239-8448 or fill out the contact form below. We can work with you to help get the best possible outcome in your case. We represent clients throughout Wake County, Raleigh, Apex, Cary, Rolesville, Garner, Wake Forest, Fuquay-Varina, and Knightdale.

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