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Marijuana Offenses in North Carolina

A few weeks ago marijuana was on the forefront of many people’s minds in this county. Several statewide ballots contained some type of marijuana-related question for the voters to decide. Going into the election, the majority of states had already legalized marijuana for at least some purpose, whether it be medicinal use or recreational use. North Carolina seems to be behind the times when it comes to weed laws. Even far more conservative states have legalized or decriminalized the drug.

As you may recall, earlier this year Governor Cooper announced a new task force in North Carolina. The Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice was put together to investigate and work toward eliminating racial inequities in the criminal justice system. Much of these inequities occur when people are charged with and convicted of drug possession in North Carolina. Recently, that task force made the recommendation to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Although not the same as legalization, supporters of marijuana law reform would like to see at least some headway and will settle for decriminalization as a starting point.

What is the Difference Between Decriminalization and Legalization?

Oftentimes states decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana before legalizing it. Decriminalizing is different from legalizing. Decriminalizing means it remains unlawful to possess it; however, it is not a criminal violation — it is a civil violation, akin to a traffic ticket. The penalty would likely be a monetary one, such as a fine. Legalizing a substance means it is not illegal to be in possession of it, and there would be no penalties should an individual be found in possession of it.

The recommendation from the task force only concerned amounts of 1.5 ounces or less. As such, even if North Carolina did enact such a measure going along with the proposal, anything above that amount would remain illegal. Currently, being in possession of 1.5 ounces or less is a misdemeanor.

Another thing to keep in mind is that even supposing possession of small amounts becomes decriminalized or legal, that does not equate to the legalization of growing, selling, or distributing the product. In that case, if North Carolinians could possess marijuana without the fear of prosecution, they would likely have to go out of state to buy it.

For now, North Carolinians will have to find comfort in the fact that their penalties for marijuana offenses are still not quite as tough as some states. In the meantime, having a well-qualified criminal defense attorney to defend any charges you are facing is the next best thing.

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Today

Have you recently been charged with or arrested for a marijuana-related offense in Southeastern North Carolina? At Coastal South Law, our experienced criminal defense attorneys are ready to fight for you both inside and outside of the courtroom. You do not have to go through this difficult time alone. Having a tough negotiator and litigator on your side can make all the difference. Pick up the phone today and call 910-253-0411 or visit us online at

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