NC Senate votes to permanently legalize hemp, will consider medical marijuana

North Carolina is one step closer to legalizing hemp permanently. The state Senate voted unanimously Tuesday for a bill including that provision. Meantime, a key committee is expected to vote Wednesday on a bill legalizing marijuana for patients with certain serious illnesses.

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Legal hemp deadline looms for North Carolina
Laura Leslie
, WRAL capitol bureau chief
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina is one step closer to legalizing hemp permanently.

The Senate voted unanimously Tuesday to approve Senate Bill 762, the 2022 Farm Act. A provision of the bill would distinguish hemp from marijuana by defining hemp as cannabis having less than 0.3% of Delta-9, the chemical in marijuana that produces the drug's high. It would also exclude hemp from the state's list of controlled substances.

The bill passed the Senate with no debate and no opposition. It now goes to the state House for its approval.

State lawmakers in 2015 temporarily legalized hemp as part of a pilot program to test hemp’s viability as a commercial crop in North Carolina. That temporary legalization expires at the end of June.

During the past few years, hemp and hemp products, such as CBD, have become a booming industry in North Carolina. So state lawmakers are moving quickly to make sure they don’t become illegal overnight.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Brent Jackson, R-Sampson, said the bill "is basically just conforming the hemp laws with federal models."

In recent years, attempts to widen the legal definition of allowable hemp products were met with resistance from law enforcement organizations and social conservative groups, who said it was a slippery slope toward legalizing marijuana. But this year those concerns haven’t resurfaced publicly.

Meanwhile, a bill to legalize medical marijuana for patients with certain serious illnesses, including cancer, will be heard by the Senate rules committee Wednesday. The bill, authored by Senate Rules Chairman Bill Rabon, R-Onslow, is expected to win committee approval.
Senate Bill 711 was heard in committees in 2021, but it didn't advance to a floor vote last year. If it passes Wednesday's committee vote, the medical marijuana bill could reach the Senate floor as early as Thursday.


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