NC Cannabis and Marijuana Laws

North Carolina Marijuana Laws

Are you curious about the status of marijuana legalization in North Carolina? You’re not alone. As attitudes and laws regarding cannabis evolve across the country, many individuals are seeking clarity on where their state stands.

While many states in the United States now allow medical or recreational use of cannabis, with several allowing both, this is not the case in North Carolina. There is a limited medical marijuana law, but that’s it when it comes to legally consuming cannabis in North Carolina. Legislators periodically introduce bills with updates on this issue, for most purposes, marijuana is still illegal in the Tarheel State. 

Join our marijuana defense lawyers in Raleigh as we explore the current and evolving cannabis laws in North Carolina. 

Is Weed Legal in NC?

In North Carolina, the legal landscape surrounding marijuana is nuanced, but at this time, marijuana is still illegal. This means that possessing, selling, or cultivating cannabis for recreational use is prohibited under state law. However, it’s essential to note that attitudes and laws surrounding recreational marijuana can change over time, and it’s always a good idea to stay informed about any updates or changes in legislation. If you need legal advice or representation, consulting with a Raleigh marijuana lawyer can provide you with the necessary guidance and support.

Recreational Marijuana

Unlike some states where recreational use is legal, North Carolina has not yet moved to legalize recreational marijuana. Possession, sale, and cultivation of weed for recreational purposes are still illegal. 


North Carolina has taken steps towards decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana possession. While possession of marijuana is still illegal, penalties for possessing small amounts have been reduced to a misdemeanor offense, typically resulting in a fine rather than jail time. This reflects a trend seen in many states where there’s a move towards treating low-level marijuana offenses with less severe penalties.

Medical Marijuana

While medical marijuana also remains illegal in North Carolina, there have been ongoing debates and proposed bills to legalize it for medicinal purposes. This issue is complex and involves considerations of patient access, regulation, and public health.

North Carolina’s Medical Marijuana Laws

A January 2021 poll 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. 

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 seven states that has not approved a medical cannabis program in the United States. 

In 2023, North Carolina experienced a flurry of legislative activity surrounding the legalization and regulation of medicinal cannabis usage. Throughout the year, several bills were introduced in both the House and Senate, sparking discussions and debates on the future of cannabis in the state. However, despite these efforts, the North Carolina General Assembly adjourned for the year without passing any of those bills into law. This development has left many questions unanswered regarding the trajectory of cannabis legislation in North Carolina.

What is Senate Bill 711?

Senate Bill 711 aims to provide relief to individuals suffering from qualifying debilitating medical conditions by allowing them to register for the use of medical cannabis. Through this legislation, individuals would have access to a regulated medical cannabis supply system, ensuring safe and legal access to this form of treatment. 

Conditions included in this legislation that could be prescribed medical marijuana if the bill were to pass are: 
  • Cancer
  • Epilepsy
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Sickle Cell Anemia
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Cachexia or Wasting Syndrome
  • Condition that results in a person receiving hospice care

Additionally proposed for medical marajuana coverage through this bill are bedridden or homebound individuals in end-of-life hospice care situations who experience persistent nausea as well as individuals suffering from terminal illnesses where the patient’s life expectancy is less than six months. Also included are post-traumatic stress disorder patients who can provide evidence that they experienced one or more traumatic events. 

The Compassionate Use Advisory Board, a group consisting of 13 individuals who review petitions for cannabis treatment, can add other debilitating medical conditions to this list if they find they qualify for medicinal cannabis treatment.

Conditions that qualify in other states that passed similar bills but are currently absent in North Carolina’s medical marijuana bill include:

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

Recreational Cannabis Laws in NC

As other states move towards legalizing recreational marijuana, North Carolina finds itself at a crossroads, navigating complex legislative discussions and societal considerations. 

Understanding House Bill 626 for Recreational Cannabis

In North Carolina, the debate over cannabis legalization has intensified with the introduction of House Bill 626. HB 626, championed by 14 Democrats, seeks to establish a robust framework for the state’s oversight of cannabis establishments while legalizing adult possession and use of cannabis for personal use. 

This bill goes beyond mere legalization, aiming to promote social equity by creating funds for community reinvestment, training, and education, ensuring that all members of society benefit from the burgeoning cannabis industry. Furthermore, HB 626 proposes a state cannabis excise tax of 30% on sales, with an option for municipalities to levy an additional 2%, providing a substantial revenue stream for the state. 

Marijuana Possession in North Carolina

Marijuana possession for recreational purposes remains illegal in the state. Possessing any amount of marijuana, regardless of quantity, is considered a criminal offense and can result in misdemeanor charges. However, the penalties can vary depending on the amount possessed and whether it’s a first offense.

Here is how the law currently punishes those found to be in possession of particular amounts of cannabis: 

  • Half an ounce or less: 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.
  • Half an ounce to an ounce-and-a-half: 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. 
  • More than one-and-a-half ounces but less than ten pounds: A Class I felony, which carries a jail sentence of three to eight months and a discretionary fine for the first offense. 

Selling and Delivering Cannabis in NC

While North Carolina has yet to legalize recreational marijuana, there are strict prohibitions in place against the sale and distribution of cannabis, including the following: 

  • Sale 10 pounds or less: 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))
  • Delivery of less than 5 grams for no compensation: This is not considered a sale and delivery, but it can still be prosecuted as possession. 
  • Sale of less than 10 pounds: 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: 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 is a Class H felony
  • 50 pounds or more but less than 2,000 pounds sold and delivered is a Class G felony
  • 10,000 pounds or more sold and delivered is a Class D felony

NC Marijuana Cultivation Laws

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))

  • Cultivation of 10 pounds or more but less than 50 pounds is a Class H felony
  • 50 pounds or more but less than 2,000 pounds is a Class G felony
  • 2,000 pounds or more but less than 10,000 pounds is a Class F felony
  • 10,000 pounds or more is a Class D felony (N.C. GS § 90-95(h))

Medicinal Marijuana vs. Hemp Extracts (CBD)

Medical marijuana is not yet legal in North Carolina; however, hemp extracts are. Hemp extract is the same as CBD oil or hemp oil. Just remember, any CBD derived from marijuana is illegal in the state. 

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.

NC Weed Laws: Frequently Asked Questions

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

What are the different marijuana possession charges in North Carolina?

Under N.C. law, individuals can be charged 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 drug trafficking of marijuana (more than 10 pounds)

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.

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.

Is CBD legal in North Carolina?

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

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.

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. 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 Marijuana Defense Lawyers If You’ve Been Arrested for Possession in Wake County

If you’ve found yourself facing charges for marijuana possession in Wake County, it’s essential to take swift action to protect your rights and navigate the legal process effectively. Our team of experienced marijuana defense lawyers at Sandman, Finn & Fitzhugh, Attorneys at Law is here to provide you with expert guidance and representation every step of the way. 

Don’t face cannabis charges alone—contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn how we can help defend your case and fight for the best possible outcome. Get started by calling us at (919) 845-6688 or filling out the contact form to the right.