Sponsors of legislation to legalize recreational marijuana in the North Carolina plan to continue their support in the next session and beyond.
Senate Bill 346, a measure to legalize marijuana, was filed in March by Senator Graig Meyer. By the following month it had seven sponsors, representing almost 15% of the entire Senate. A companion measure (House Bill 626) was filed in April by State Representative Johnnie Autry with three cosponsors. It quickly garnered 10 additional sponsors, representing over 10% of the entire 120-member House of Representatives.
The companion bills would legalize the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana for those 21 and older, as well as the possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana concentrates and marijuana edibles with up to 2,000 milligrams of THC. The personal cultivation of up to six marijuana plants would also be allowed.
Despite the growing support, neither measure advanced out of their respective chambers prior to the end of this year’s legislative session. However, given North Carolina’s legislature runs on a biennium cycle, the bills are not dead and will carry over to the 2024 legislative session.
Representatives for both Senator Meyer and Rep. Autry told us today that they will continue to actively support SB 346 and HB 626 during the 2024 session. Given it’s a short session, it will be “a challenge” to get House and Senate leadership to prioritize any cannabis measures in 2024. However, a spokesperson for Rep. Autry says g”will absolutely” file a new legalization bill in 2025, if necessary.
The preamble to the companion bills state that the prohibition of cannabis “has had an unfair, disparate impact on persons and communities of color”, and it “diverts law enforcement resources from violent and property crimes and subjects civilians to unnecessary police interactions”. Doing this also “deprives the State of thousands of legal jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue.”
The full text of House Bill 626, which is identical to Senate Bill 346, can be found by clicking here.
In March the North Carolina Senate voted 36 to 10 to pass a bill to legalize medical marijuana. The measure failed to advance in the House, but will also carry over into the next session.