RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The state’s law legalizing hemp and CBD products will expire later this week, which could lead to many business owners suddenly finding their products are illegal again, prompting them to urge state lawmakers on Tuesday to act quickly.
“It is literally the 11th hour,” said Eric Stahl, owner of Modern Apotheca in Raleigh.
Though both the state Senate and House of Representatives have passed separate bills that would keep hemp legal, they have not yet agreed on one bill to send to Gov. Roy Cooper (D) to sign ahead of Thursday’s deadline.
The state made hemp legal in 2015 through a pilot program that expires June 30.
Since then, the federal government has legalized hemp but North Carolina would have to conform its laws to that decision. Otherwise, hemp will be treated the same as marijuana under state law on Friday.
Stahl says as a small business owner he worries about providing for his kids.
“I signed them up for summer camp this summer. I’m afraid I’m going to have to tell them I can’t pay the summer camp tuition because I don’t know if I’m going to have a small business in existence in July. That is crazy,” he said.
Ian Brown, a store manager at Nature’s Releaf in Raleigh, said he’s benefited not just from being employed in the industry but also using some of the products he sells.
“I’ve been off opiates for a year-and-a-half now. Literally, the day before I started working at this company was the last day I filled my prescription,” Brown said. “If they get rid of this, I have to go back to my doctor. I have to get back on pain medication, which is kind of the opposite of what we want to do in America with the opioid crisis.”
Late last month, the Senate unanimously passed the Farm Act, which included a provision that would keep hemp legal.
Some Republicans in the House were unwilling to support the hemp provision but also did not want to vote against the Farm Act.
So, the House pulled the hemp provision out of it and passed a separate bill that would keep hemp legal. That bill passed by a vote of 85-26 on June 1.
Since then, the two chambers have not reconciled the issue.
“I’m really confused to be honest with you myself,” said Sen. Brent Jackson (R-Sampson), lead sponsor of the Farm Act, in an interview Tuesday. “We’ve not been able to come to any type of agreement because we’ve not been able to sit down and have a conversation as to what we need to do.”
In addition to dealing with the hemp deadline leaders of the General Assembly are also aiming to pass a budget and end the legislative session this week.
“Let’s hope that’s not the case. We’re still working on it, and it’s still a work in progress. As you well know, we’re winding down this session, hopefully some time late this week. And, we will do our best to make sure it gets covered before we leave here,” said Sen. Jackson.
The state estimates there are more than 1,500 industrial hemp producers in North Carolina.
The Senate also has passed a separate bill to legalize medical marijuana for a limited number of chronic conditions. The House has declined to move forward with that bill, with House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) saying the issue will wait until next year’s long session.