Medical Marijuana in North Carolina
Despite the fact that more than half the states in the nation have legalized cannabis for medicinal or even recreational purposes, marijuana remains classified as a Schedule VI controlled substance in North Carolina and is largely illegal to possess. The North Carolina Epilepsy Alternative Treatment Act was passed in 2014 and amended in 2015, but it only allows patients diagnosed by neurologists with intractable epilepsy to legally possess a hemp extract.
Medical marijuana, however, has proven beneficial for people suffering from many other debilitating conditions, such as cancer, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), glaucoma, seizures, and several others. Visitors who have been legally prescribed medical marijuana in their home states can often be surprised to learn that possession of even a small amount of cannabis can result in criminal charges in North Carolina.
Lawyer Discusses Medical Marijuana in North Carolina
Were you recently arrested in the Research Triangle area for any kind of alleged marijuana offense despite you needing the cannabis for a medical condition? The Coolidge Law Firm will fight to protect your rights and work to possibly get the criminal charges reduced or dismissed.
Raleigh criminal defense attorney David Coolidge represents individuals accused of marijuana offenses throughout Wake County, including Knightdale, Apex, Cary, Fuquay-Varina, Garner, and Holly Springs as well as students at such local higher learning institutions as Shaw University, Duke University, Meredith College, and North Carolina State University. You can have our lawyer provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case as soon as you call to schedule a free initial consultation.
Medical Marijuana Information Center
- What laws has North Carolina passed relating to medical marijuana?
- Which crimes can a medical marijuana patient be charged with in North Carolina?
- Where can I learn more about medical marijuana in Raleigh?
In 2014, then-Governor Pat McCrory signed the North Carolina Epilepsy Alternative Treatment Act into law. The law was amended the following year to allow people diagnosed by neurologists with intractable epilepsy to use hemp extract as an alternative treatment for intractable epilepsy without participating in a pilot study.
The law defines a hemp extract as meaning “an extract from a cannabis plant, or a mixture or preparation containing cannabis plant material, that has all of the following characteristics”:
- Is composed of less than nine-tenths of one percent (0.9 percent) tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) by weight;
- Is composed of at least five percent (5 percent) cannabidiol (CBD) by weight; and
- Contains no other psychoactive substance.
In addition to only making a limited number of people available to be qualifying patients, the law encouraged certain local universities to “conduct research on hemp extract development, production, and use for the treatment of seizure disorders and to participate in any ongoing or future clinical studies or trials” but generally required hemp extract to be acquired form another jurisdiction. Representative Kelly Alexander introduced House Bill 78 (HB 78), which sought to expand the number of conditions eligible for medical marijuana, but the House Judiciary Committee reported the bill unfavorably and it received no further consideration.
In April 2016, House Bill 983 (HB 983) was introduced and would allow individuals to possess or use marijuana or THC without being subject to the penalties described in the North Carolina Controlled Substances Act, if that individual satisfies all of the following criteria:
- The individual has been diagnosed with a terminal or chronic illness by a licensed physician;
- The individual’s use or possession of marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinols occurs pursuant to a written recommendation issued by a licensed physician who, in the course of treating the terminal or chronic illness, has determined that marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinols alleviates the illness or symptoms associated with the illness;
- The individual has obtained from the North Carolina Department of Revenue a Medical Marijuana tax stamp as provided under North Carolina General Statute § 105-113.108;
- Unless diagnosed with a chronic illness by a licensed physician, the individual is under hospice care; and
- The marijuana is for the individual’s personal use.
HB 983 passed on the first reading and was referred to the House Health Committee. It would need to pass there before moving on to the full House for further consideration.
Unfortunately, people with medical conditions who are currently unapproved for hemp extract can face criminal penalties for possession of any amount of cannabis. If a person allegedly possesses more than 10 pounds of cannabis, it can result in trafficking of marijuana charges.
Marijuana possession is punishable as follows in North Carolina, depending on the amount allegedly possessed:
- One-half of an ounce (avoirdupois) or less — Class 3 misdemeanor;
- More than one-half of an ounce, but less than one and one-half ounces — Class 1 misdemeanor;
- More than one and one-half ounces of marijuana, but note more than 10 pounds — Class I felony;
- More than 10 pounds (avoirdupois), but less than 50 pounds — Class H felony;
- 50 pounds or more, but less than 2,000 pounds — Class G felony;
- 2,000 pounds or more, but less than 10,000 pounds — Class F felony; or
- 10,000 pounds or more — Class D felony.
If a person is accused of cultivating or growing cannabis, that individual can be charged with manufacturing marijuana under North Carolina General Statute § 90-95(a)(1). If the amount involved is 10 pounds or less, the alleged crime is a Class I felony, but any excess amount results in the trafficking charges listed above.
Triangle National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) — Triangle NORML is a regional chapter of the national NORML, a nonprofit organization. North Carolina has four NORML Chapters. NORML’s mission is “to move public opinion sufficiently to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults, and to serve as an advocate for consumers to assure they have access to high quality marijuana that is safe, convenient and affordable.”
House Bill 766 | North Carolina General Assembly — Read the full text of the bill state legislators passed to amend the North Carolina Epilepsy Alternative Treatment Act. Governor McCrory signed this hemp extract bill into law on July 16, 2015. You can view all of the changes that were made to the original law, including an increase in the allowable amount of THC and decrease in the required amount of cannabidiol.
Contact a Medical Marijuana Defense Attorney
If you were arrested for any kind of cannabis-related offense despite you needing marijuana for a medical condition, it will be in your best interest to immediately retain legal counsel. The Coolidge Law Firm defends clients in Zebulon, Morrisville, Raleigh, Rolesville, Wake Forest, Wendell, and many surrounding areas of Wake County.
David Coolidge and his Associates are experienced criminal defense lawyers in Raleigh who also helps students at such local colleges as North Carolina State University (NCSU), William Peace University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), and Wake Technical Community College (Wake Tech). Call (919) 239-8448 or complete an online contact form today to have our attorney review your case and discuss your legal options during a free, confidential consultation.