Did you know North Carolina is on the path to permanently legalizing its flourishing hemp industry? And the best part about it — in contrast to years past, the issue no longer seems controversial.
The 2022 Farm Act, Senate Bill 792, would distinguish hemp from marijuana by defining hemp as cannabis having less than 0.3 percent of Delta 9 THC. It would also eliminate hemp from the state's list of controlled substances.
Sponsor Sen. Brent Jackson, voiced to the state Senate agriculture committee Tuesday that the change conforms to federal law — and is necessary because the 2015 state law that legalized the hemp industry in North Carolina is set to expire on June 30.
Discussion on Legalizing Hemp
Allowing the current law to expire, Jackson said, would effectively outlaw hemp in North Carolina. "Our retailers are going to be illegally selling products. Our growers for the most part will also be illegal, and it will wipe out this industry. In practical terms, we will maintain the status quo that we currently enjoy today and our growers and retailers have today,” he stated.
In recent years, any discussion of legalizing hemp elicited protests from law enforcement groups, who said it would make it impossible to arrest people for possession of marijuana. But this year, no one spoke in opposition to it. It passed the committee on a vote Tuesday.
Eddie Caldwell with the North Carolina Sheriffs' Association, which has long opposed legalization, told WRAL News his group hasn't had a chance to review the current legislation, so it does not yet have a position on it.
"We will be following it and consulting with the association leadership if it continues moving through the legislative process," Caldwell stated.
The Legislative Process
The bill has several more committee stops before making it to the Senate floor — and must pass the House. The committee also decided Tuesday to amend the bill to send a so-called right-to-repair provision to a study commission, adding it would hold future town hall meetings on the issue in rural areas.
The bill would have required manufacturers to sell parts, manuals, and software diagnostic tools directly to independent shops and customers at the same price they sell to dealers. The provision received considerable opposition from dealers Tuesday.