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North Carolina Gov. Signs Bill Marking Legal Hemp Permanent

Hemp is now permanently legal in North Carolina thanks to a bill signed into law by the state’s governor.

It was the third measure signed Thursday by Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat. As written, the bill will permanently remove hemp from the state’s list of controlled substances, which brings North Carolina in line with federal law.

Cooper described the bill as an important win for Tar Heel State farmers.

“Agriculture is North Carolina’s largest industry and giving North Carolina farmers certainty that they can continue to participate in this growing market is the right thing to do for rural communities and our economy,” Cooper said in a statement following the bill’s signing.

The federal laws have been changed over the past eight years to allow states to grow hemp. This has proven to be a huge boon for the agricultural community.

In 2014, Congress passed a Farm Bill that enabled state governments and research institutions to cultivate and produce hemp under so-called “pilot programs.”

In 2018, the 2018 Farm Bill made hemp illegal by eliminating it from federal Controlled Substances Act.

As the National Conference of State Legislatures explained: “The 2018 Farm Bill allows states and tribes to submit a plan and apply for primary regulatory authority over the production of hemp in their state or in their tribal territory. A state plan must meet certain criteria, as described in the USDA interim rule. This includes keeping track of land, using testing methods and disposing of products or plants that have a higher THC limit. The USDA will review and issue a decision within 60 days on plans submitted by a state to the agency with the goal of providing states enough time to implement their plan before the 2020 hemp season.”

North Carolina treated hemp cultivation in the state as a pilot project, and it was set to end at June’s expiration. Cooper signed Thursday’s bill into law, extending the program past June and into the future.

The measure had overwhelming support in North Carolina’s Republican-controlled general assembly, with members of the state Senate passing the bill unanimously in May.

The hemp bill did better than the proposal to legalize North Carolina’s medical cannabis. Last month’s legislation was passed by 35-10 vote in the North Carolina state Senate. It has been blocked by the State House of Representatives.

The bill would permit patients with the following qualifying conditions to receive medical cannabis as a treatment: Cancer; Epilepsy; Positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS); Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); Crohn’s disease; Sickle cell anemia; Parkinson’s disease; Post-traumatic stress disorder, subject to evidence that an applicant experienced one or more traumatic events; Multiple sclerosis; Cachexia or wasting syndrome; Severe or persistent nausea in a person who is not pregnant that is related to end-of-life or hospice care, or who is bedridden or homebound because of a condition; a terminal illness when the patient’s remaining life expectancy is less than six months; or a condition resulting in the individual receiving hospice care.

Recent polls show that North Carolina residents are generally supportive of medical and recreational marijuana.

A survey conducted in April found that seventy two percent of the registered voters of the state support legalizing medical cannabis. A similar poll revealed that 57% North Carolina voters also believe legalization should apply to recreational cannabis.

North Carolina Republicans backed medical cannabis by 64%. 46% supported legalization of recreational marijuana.