New bill aims to legalize marijuana in North Carolina, expunge past offenses

CHARLOTTE — While the North Carolina General Assembly is weighing whether or not to enact a limited medical marijuana bill, seven legislators have introduced a separate bill that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana in the state.

Senate Bill 346 was filed last week, and it would allow people over the age of 21 in North Carolina to possess small amounts of cannabis.

The state senators who introduced the bill say that “cannabis prohibition, like alcohol prohibition before it, has been a wasteful and destructive failure,” and that prohibition “has had an unfair, disparate impact on persons and communities of color” and “diverts law enforcement resources from violent and property crimes.”

The bill, if passed, would also enact a 20% state tax on the sale, and municipalities would be able to enact another 3% tax. The tax revenues would then be split up between new and existing programs, like this:

  • 25% to a Community Reinvestment and Repair Fund created by the bill.
  • 10% to a Social Equity Fund created by the bill.
  • 3% to a Cannabis Education and Technical Assistance Fund created by the bill.
  • 7% to the Department of Health and Human Services for evidence-based, voluntary programs for substance abuse treatment or prevention.
  • 2% to the DHHS for a public education campaign for youth and adults about the health and safety risks of alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, and other substances, including driving while impaired.
  • 2% to the DHHS for cannabis research.
  • Up to 1% to the Department of Public Safety for advanced impaired driving enforcement and drug recognition training.
  • The remaining 50% of the tax revenue would go to the general fund.

Like other states that have legalized the recreational use of cannabis, the North Carolina bill would include limits on how much an adult could have. The bill says people could have up to two ounces of cannabis flower, or 15 grams of concentrated cannabis, or six cannabis plants. You wouldn’t be able to have cannabis products containing more than 2,000 milligrams of THC.

You also wouldn’t be able to consume cannabis products in a public place or while in a moving vehicle.

The bill would also create an Office of Social Equity that would “promote and encourage full participation in the regulated cannabis industry by people from communities that have previously been disproportionately harmed by cannabis prohibition and enforcement, in order to positively impact those communities.”

Another section of the bill says that the state wouldn’t be able to discriminate against cannabis, and people on parole or probation would be able to possess cannabis unless it would create a danger to them or another person.

The General Assembly is already debating another medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 3, but part two of SB 346 would also create a medical marijuana industry in North Carolina, with a few different regulations outlined than what’s in Senate Bill 3.

Lastly, if Senate Bill 346 is passed, it would include the “automatic expunction of certain marijuana offenses.” The bill says that if anyone was convicted of a possession charge that would’ve been legal under the bill’s text, that charge would be automatically expunged “no later than July 1, 2026.”

The bill had seven Democrat sponsors, including Mecklenburg County State Sen. Natasha Marcus, when it was introduced last Tuesday. It’s currently awaiting action in the state senate’s committee on rules and operations.

You can read the full text of the bill at this link.

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Andrew McMillan, wsoctv.com

Andrew McMillan is the Digital Content Manager for WSOC-TV.