NC Cannabis and Marijuana Laws

NC Marijuana Laws

Most states in the United States now allow medical or recreational use of cannabis, and many allow both. However, that is not the case in the Tarheel State. There is a limited medical marijuana law, but that’s it. Legislators periodically introduce bills on this issue, and some bear watching. But, for most purposes, marijuana is still illegal in North Carolina. 

North Carolina has yet to legalize marijuana in any form

On June 6, 2022, the North Carolina Senate passed a medical cannabis bill, but the House of Representatives did not vote on the legislation before they adjourned for the year. This inaction has N.C. remaining as one of only 11 states that has not approved a medical cannabis program in the U.S. A poll carried out in January 2021 by Elon University found that 73% of North Carolinians supported medical cannabis. A subsequent poll in May 2022 showed that support had increased to 82% across bipartisan lines. These surveys indicate that North Carolinians indeed want a medical cannabis program legislated. 

The bill that passed the N.C. Senate, Bill 711, lists the following conditions that could be prescribed medical marijuana:

  • Cancer
  • Epilepsy
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Sickle Cell Anemia
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Cachexia or Wasting Syndrome
  • Severe or persistent nausea in a person that is related to end-of-life or hospice care or who is bedridden or homebound due to a condition
  • Terminal illness when the patient’s life expectancy is less than six months
  • Condition that results in a person receiving hospice care
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder subject to evidence that an applicant experienced one or more traumatic events
  • Any other serious medical condition or its treatment added by the Compassionate Use Advisory Board, which consists of 13 members that review petitions and have the power to add a new debilitating medical condition

Other conditions that qualify in states that have passed similar bills but that are absent in N.C.’s medical marijuana bill include:

  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Glaucoma
  • Severe and chronic pain

Cannabis Laws


Fortunately, North Carolina has partially decriminalized marijuana possession of half an ounce or less. This offense is a Class 3 misdemeanor and does not carry a sentence of imprisonment. However, it has a maximum fine of $200. So, in effect, this would apply to a few joints of marijuana.

Possession of half an ounce to an ounce-and-a-half is a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum jail sentence of 45 days and a discretionary fine for a first offense of up to $1,000. Next, possession of more than one-and-a-half ounces but less than ten pounds is a Class I felony, which carries a sentence of three to eight months and a discretionary fine for the first offense. Furthermore, the sale of 10 pounds or less of marijuana is a Class I felony punishable by three to eight months imprisonment and a discretionary fine for a first offense. Cultivation of under ten pounds is also a Class I felony. (N.C. GS § 15A-1340.17, N.C. GS § 15A-1340.23, N.C. GS § 90-95(d)(4))

Selling and Delivering

Delivery of less than 5 grams of cannabis for no compensation is not considered a sale and delivery, but it can still be prosecuted as possession. Sale of less than 10 pounds of marijuana is a Class H felony punishable by four to eight months imprisonment and a discretionary fine for the first offense. Delivery of less than 10 pounds without compensation is a Class 1 felony punishable by three to eight months imprisonment and a discretionary fine for the first offense. (N.C. GS § 15A-1340.17) (N.C. GS § 90-95(a)(2))

From this point, as the amount of marijuana that is sold and delivered gets larger, the imprisonment times lengthen and fines increase. (N.C. GS  § 90-95(h))

  • Ten pounds or more but less than 50 pounds sold and delivered: Class H felony
  • 50 pounds or more but less than 2,000 pounds sold and delivered: Class G felony
  • 10,000 pounds or more sold and delivered: Class D felony


Cultivation of less than 10 pounds of marijuana is a Class 1 felony punishable by three to eight months imprisonment and a discretionary fine for a first offense. (N.C. GS § 90-95(a)(2))

  • 10 pounds or more 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
  • 10,000 pounds or more: Class D felony

(N.C. GS § 90-95(h))

Medicinal Marijuana vs. Hemp Extracts (CBD)

Medical marijuana is not yet approved for North Carolina; however, hemp extracts are approved. Hemp extract is the same as CBD oil or hemp oil. Just remember, any CBD derived from marijuana is illegal in N.C. Patients with intractable epilepsy may possess and use hemp extracts that have less than 0.9 % THC and at least 5% CBD. Other consumers can purchase hemp-derived CBD that contains less than 0.3% THC. Anything with more THC than that amount  is considered marijuana and illegal in N.C. for the general consumer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some questions we frequently get at Sandman, Finn, and Fitzhugh regarding marijuana, hemp, and CBD:

  1. What are the different marijuana possession charges in North Carolina?

Under N.C. law, individuals can be charge with:

  • Misdemeanor possession of marijuana (less than 1.5 oz)
  • Felony possession of marijuana (1.5 oz to 10 lbs; 1/20th 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)
  1. How will I be punished for selling marijuana?

Your punishment depends on whether you are charged in state or federal court and how much marijuana you are charged with selling. Read above in this article for the N.C. sentences for possession and selling.

  1. How do marijuana and hemp differ?

Marijuana and hemp are both cannabis. However, they are different varieties of the Cannabis Sativa L. plant. Hemp is a legal agricultural commodity and must contain 0.3% or less of THC. Hemp is legal in N.C. while marijuana is an illegal controlled substance in N.C.

  1. Is CBD legal in North Carolina?

Yes, cannabidiol (CBD) and other cannabinoids (excluding THC) derived from hemp are legal in N.C. 

  1. Are THC vapes legal in North Carolina?

No, vaping and cartridges or using other forms of marijuana resin extract such as hash, wax, dabs, and shatter in ways other than vaping is illegal in N.C. These are all punishable as felonies for possession of more than 1/20th of an ounce.

  1. How will police know if the hemp or CBD product is legal?

Unfortunately, if you are using hemp and CBD products you may find yourself facing criminal prosecution. Sometimes law enforcement officials have a difficult time telling the difference between hemp and marijuana. This confusion is understandable since the hemp flower that is smoked by CBD users looks and smells like marijuana. And, even though hemp and CBD products can contain only 0.3% or less total THC, these low levels can still test positive on a police officer’s field test. Hemp users need to know that drug tests can also return a positive result.

Consult With Our NC Criminal Defense Lawyers If You’ve Been Arrested for Marijuana Possession

If you have been arrested for marijuana possession, contact the experienced Raleigh drug crime lawyers at Sandman, Finn & Fitzhugh, Attorneys at Law, today. Fill out the form to the right or call us at (919) 845-6688.