A comprehensive marijuana legalization and regulation bill was introduced Monday that would allow people age 21 and older to legally possess a small amount of the product.
House Bill 765 was submitted by Sen. Toby Fitch, D-Wilson.
At 69 pages, it is more in-depth than House Bill 617a 19-page bill introduced in April 2021 with Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, as one of four lead sponsors and Rep. Amber Baker, D-Forsyth, as one of 13 co-sponsors.
HB617 was sent to the Rules and Operations Committee, where it was shelved for the 2021 session.
SB765 is likely to face a similar fate given strong opposition from Republican leaders to the legalization of marijuana in North Carolina.
North Carolina is one of six states where all uses of marijuana are illegal, as well as Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, South Carolina and Wyoming. This includes banning the use of medical marijuana.
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Senate Bill 765
The primary focus on SB765 is the sale, possession, and use of marijuana, although a section covers the legal use of industrial hemp.
Persons aged 21 and over may possess up to two ounces of marijuana on their person.
Anyone who has more than two ounces on them in a public place could be subject to a civil fine of up to $25.
However, anyone with more than a pound of marijuana — not including a marijuana license — could be convicted of a Class F felony and face a fine of up to $250,000.
It would be illegal for anyone to sell or supply marijuana products to anyone under the age of 21. It would be illegal to transport marijuana in an open container, or for a driver and one or more passengers to consume marijuana while the vehicle is in motion.
The law includes how retail marijuana would be sold, including warning labels on packages about the health effects of use, as well as marketing restrictions.
The bill contains language dealing with the use and manufacture of edible marijuana products.
There would be a cannabis business loan fund to support retail marijuana sellers, while allowing financial institutions to provide financial services to those sellers.
Marijuana at home
The bill would allow people aged 21 and over to grow up to two mature marijuana plants and up to two immature marijuana plants “for personal use at their place of residence.”
Plants should be grown indoors and not visible to the public without the use of planes, binoculars or other optical aids.
Each mature and immature plant should have a legible tag that includes the owner’s name, driver’s license or ID number, and a note that the marijuana is grown for personal home use.
Anyone found guilty of violating these regulations could be subject to a Class 1 felony.
Persons charged with a first offense may be placed on probation. Conditions could include volunteering for substance abuse screenings, evaluation for potential treatment and/or education programs, and drug testing.
There is also a section on how law enforcement officers should enforce the law.
The bill would create a state cannabis control commission that would oversee “a uniform system of control over the sale, purchase, transportation, manufacture, consumption, and possession of marijuana in North Carolina.” North, and would provide procedures to ensure the proper administration of marijuana laws under a uniform system throughout the state.”
The commission would have an executive director, a board of directors, and employees from the North Carolina Department of Public Safety.
The commission’s authority would supersede any local ordinance or resolution regulating the retail sale of marijuana or marijuana products at retail, including licensing, inspections, manufacturing and testing.
There would also be a Cannabis Public Health Advisory Council.
The bill would contain a 21% state tax on all retail marijuana, retail marijuana products, marijuana accessories, and all non-retail marijuana and related products. There would be exceptions to the tax, including the use of cannabis oil for treatment, as permitted by state law.
Local municipalities could apply up to 3% additional tax on these same marijuana products.
Fitch’s bill may represent an attempt to tie legalization to a medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 711, which cleared three Senate committees during the 2021 session before stalling in August in rules and operations.
Legislative analysts are unsure whether SB711 will be heard in the short session that is expected to end in early July.
Senate Bill 711, which would legalize medical marijuana, advanced through three Senate committees before stalling at the Bridge Rules and Operations Committee in August. It is likely to resurface at the start of the 2022 session.
SB711 is the latest of several attempts over the past 12 years to legalize medical marijuana.
The bill’s chances of clearing the Senate are seen as promising given that Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, and chairman of the Rules Committee, is one of its three main sponsors.
Rabon, a cancer survivor, said SB711 would not serve as a gateway to recreational marijuana use, although opponents including Senator Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth, say it will be the case.
The bill requires the medical marijuana system to be revenue self-sufficient after the initial money to set up the system.