Election results show NC remains behind the times on marijuana legalization
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In case you missed it, reporter Will Doran of Raleigh’s News & Observer has an informative story yesterday about the rapid progress the cause of marijuana legalization is making across the country and how, sadly, North Carolina seems to remain immune to the trend.
As Doran explains, voters in Mississippi — yes Mississippi — voted overwhelmingly last week to approve a state ballot initiative legalizing medical marijuana. Unfortunately, as is the case in so many other areas of public policy, North Carolina elected leaders lag stubbornly behind the times. This is from Doran’s story:
In addition to Mississippi, ballot initiatives are how two other Republican-led southern states, Florida and Arkansas, have also legalized medical marijuana over the last few years.
In North Carolina, the legislature alone can decide what will or won’t appear on the ballot. The two top Republican leaders at the legislature, Sen. Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, did not respond to questions about whether they would consider any such proposals.
And while a 2019 study by the Pew Research Center found that two-thirds of Americans — including 55% of Republicans — think marijuana should be legal, recent history shows GOP politicians in North Carolina remain skeptical.
The story also explains how a group of North Carolina officials in the Governor’s Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice discussed the issue this week, but seemed to agree that any progress in our state remains a long way off — this despite the widely understood fact that law enforcement discriminates against people of color in enforcing current marijuana prohibitions.
Although Doran’s story doesn’t mention it, it’s also worth noting that four states (New Jersey, Arizona, Montana and South Dakota) approved ballot measures last week to legalize recreational marijuana. As a result, the scoreboard now shows that 15 states, two territories and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana for recreational use, while 34 states and two territories allow medical marijuana.
All of which makes the silly prohibitionist stance of North Carolina officials that much more indefensible. Indeed, the notion that anyone in our state is facing criminal sanctions in 2020 for possessing marijuana for personal use is ridiculous.
Several states move forward with ballot initiatives to liberaliz marijuan laws; Mississippi medical marijuana; New Jersey, Arizona, Montana, South Dakota
Lawmakers Mull Marijuana Legalization
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UPDATE: As of August 2020, Senate Bill 58, which increases the amount of marijuana someone can legally carry for personal use and expunges records of those with certain marijuana convictions, is stalled. The bill was introduced on February 14, 2019 with one writer and eight co-sponsors, but since that point, no forward movement has occurred.
In February 2019, Senator Paul Lowe (D-Forsyth) reintroduced a measure in the State Senate which would allow people to possess up to three ounces of cannabis legal for their own personal use. Last year’s version, which lawmakers did not approve, would have allowed up to four ounces. Nevertheless, this latest bill would significantly alter the legal landscape for Raleigh drug possession attorneys.
What is Senate Bill 58?
This measure is something of a compromise. SB 58 enhances the charges for possession of more than three ounces to a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum 120-day jail sentence and a discretionary fine. Furthermore, the bill increases the weight of cannabis a person can carry from 1.5 ounces to one pound before it is considered a Class 1 felony. A conviction on this count could result in imprisonment for up to five months.
Currently, possession of up to 1.5 ounces is a Class 3 misdemeanor, which carries a maximum 20-day jail sentence and a fine of no more than $200. Possession of 1.5 to 16 ounces is a Class 1 felony offense.
SB 58 is a significant departure from current North Carolina law. The Tarheel State has some of the strictest marijuana laws in the country. Recreational marijuana is completely illegal, and medical marijuana is only available to patients with epilepsey. Even then, these patients must use a special grade of marijuana with a low THC and high CBD content.
Would SB 58 Help Individuals Who Have Marijuana Possession Convictions on Their Records?
Maybe. If the prior conviction was for simple possession under three ounces and there were no aggravating circumstances, SB 58 authorizes a Raleigh drug possession attorney to file an expungement petition with the court that handed down the conviction. If the District Attorney and probation officer agree to the petition, or at least do not contest it, the judge will probably grant it.
Many people with marijuana and other convictions experience hardship when looking for a good job, obtaining student aid, finding a good place to live, and in other situations.
Lawmakers may yet relax the marijuana laws in North Carolina. For a free consultation with an experienced Raleigh drug possession attorney, contact Sandman, Finn & Fitzhugh, Attorneys at Law. Fill out the form below or call us at (919) 887-8040.
A new Senate bill allows possession of up to three ounces of marijuana. If you need help with a current case, call our Raleigh drug possession attorneys.