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North Carolina Lawmaker Introduces Legalization Bill

North Carolina Democratic lawmaker, Monday’s bill would allow adults to legally possess and sell recreational cannabis.

State Sen. Toby Fitch’s proposal focuses primarily on “the sale, possession and use of marijuana,” according to the Winston-Salem Journal, “although a section covers the legal use of industrial hemp.”

As in other states and cities that have lifted the prohibition on pot, Fitch’s bill would apply to individuals who are 21 and older.

Under the proposal, those adults could “possess up to two ounces of marijuana on their person,” the newspaper reported, but there would be restrictions and penalties tied to consuming pot in public.

According to Winston-Salem Journal, anyone “who possesses more than two ounces on their person in a public setting could be subject to a civil penalty of up to $25,” but “anyone possessing more than one pound of marijuana—not including a marijuana licensure—could be found guilty of a Class F felony and face a fine of up to $250,000.”

Neither recreational nor medicinal cannabis are legal in the Tar Heel State––one of a dwindling number of states with outright prohibition still intact.

According to Winston-Salem Journal, the bill “may represent an attempt to link legalization to a medical marijuana bill…that cleared three Senate committees during the 2021 session before stalling in August in Rules and Operations.”

A Republican senator from a state introduced the medical marijuana bill last year.

Fitch’s bill would also establish a regulatory body overseeing the new cannabis market called the Cannabis Control Commission.

Under the text of the legislation, the commission would “consist of a Chief Executive Officer, the Board of Directors, and the agents and employees of the Commission. The Commission shall be administratively located within the Department of Public Safety but shall exercise its powers independently of the Secretary of Public Safety.”

This commission will issue regulations regarding the transportation and sale of cannabis. It also enforces them.

This regulatory body will also oversee the implementation of social equity provisions in the new law. These are intended to offer opportunities for communities who have been adversely affected by war on drugs.

Given the North Carolina General Assembly composition, however, this all may be meaningless. Republicans control the two legislative chambers while Democrats hold one, Roy Cooper who is currently acting as Governor.

Last year, a spokesperson for Cooper indicated that Cooper was open to signing the legislation regarding medical cannabis.

“Studies have shown medical marijuana can offer many benefits to some who suffer from chronic conditions, particularly veterans, and the Governor is encouraged that North Carolina might join the 36 other states that have authorized it for use,” the spokesperson told the Outer Banks Voice. “The Governor will review this bill as it moves through the legislative process.”

It is reasonable to think that North Carolina’s voters want to see legalization of both recreational and medicinal cannabis.

A poll last month found that a whopping majority of North Carolina voters––72%––are in favor of legalizing medical cannabis. This support was shared by 64% of the state Republicans, 75% and almost 80% respectively of Democrats and Republicans.

North Carolina voters supported recreational cannabis use by 57%. This is lower than the 63% of Democrats and 60% of Independents.

The state Republicans on recreational cannabis were split with 46% saying that it should become legal, and 44% saying that it should not be.