Updated on May 11, 2020. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Medical marijuana laws in North Carolina allow patients suffering from severe epilepsy to access cannabidiol (CBD) oil to find relief from symptoms. However, efforts to broaden access to patients suffering from other conditions have so far proved unsuccessful. As a result, the vast majority of people in the state are unable to legally use this gentle, effective form of medicine.
There are currently efforts to expand current laws to serve those with autism, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, mitochondrial disease, and a few other conditions, but that hasn’t happened yet.
A state representative introduced a comprehensive medical marijuana bill in the North Carolina legislature in 2015. It would have granted people throughout the state suffering from a variety of medical conditions access to legal cannabis as long as they had a doctor’s recommendation. They would be free from both arrest and prosecution. The bill also called for a controlled system of cultivating, producing and distributing medical cannabis so patients would have a safe, reliable source of relief.
However, the bill would die in the state’s House Judiciary Committee, and it received no further consideration as a result.
The state did make a small step forward in 2014 when it first allowed patients suffering from “intractable” epilepsy to obtain CBD oil to address their symptoms. It was an extremely restrictive program, however, limiting access to the extract. Under North Carolina marijuana law, patients could only obtain CBD from neurologists affiliated with four specific universities — Wake Forest University, East Carolina University, Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
In 2016, however, a bill was passed that would allow any doctor in the state who is board certified in neurology and affiliated with a North Carolina-licensed hospital, to recommend CBD. The law also slightly increased the amounts of THC and CBD that would be allowed. This raised the minimum amount of CBD content by weight from five percent to 10 percent, and the amount of allowable THC from .3 percent to .9 percent. What didn’t change was the fact that only people suffering from severe epilepsy can access CBD.
A sunset clause was included in the law. According to this clause, CBD oil would once again become illegal in the state if, by 2021, studies fail to prove it provides therapeutic benefits.
In February 2017, the North Carolina Medical Cannabis Act was introduced. This bill would establish a registry and medical marijuana program.
North Carolina significantly reduced the penalty for possessing small amounts of marijuana in 1977. However, even a first offender could still be subject to a suspended jail sentence and would be charged with a misdemeanor instead of a civil infraction. The fine for a first offense is a maximum of $200. Anyone caught with .5 to 1.5 ounces of weed is subject to anywhere from one to 45 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. If someone is convicted of possessing anywhere from 1.5 ounces to 10 pounds, they face three to eight months in jail as well as a discretionary fine.
At MarijuanaDoctors.com, we hope that efforts to change North Carolina medical marijuana laws will one day succeed, and a safe, sensible policy can be established. We’ll continue to watch developments and keep you updated.