RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A state Senate committee approved a bill Tuesday that would keep the state’s hemp laws from expiring at the end of next month, as some business owners have worried they could end up having to close their doors if state leaders don’t act.
The 2022 Farm Act would permanently remove hemp from the state’s Controlled Substances Act, aligning the state with the federal government and keeping hemp from being treated the same as marijuana under state law.
“It’s absolutely amazing news for us. That doesn’t mean we’ll have to revisit this issue in another couple of years. Hemp is here in North Carolina to stay,” said Eric Stahl, owner of Modern Apotheca in Raleigh. “We want rules and regulations so it’s a fair marketplace to participate in and so that our customers get high-quality products that they deserve.”
Hemp-related products sold in North Carolina must contain less than 0.3 percent of THC, which is the ingredient that gets you high.
Hemp products have been legally available in North Carolina since 2015 when the state passed the hemp pilot program bill, which offers an exemption.
While hemp legalization has been controversial in the past, the move received bipartisan support and little discussion in Tuesday’s committee meeting. Most people were concerned about an unrelated provision dealing with repairing farm equipment.
“Law enforcement has seen that (hemp) is not a problem. You know, we’re even discussing medical marijuana now. So, I think the train is moving,” said Sen. Brent Jackson (R-Sampson).
Separate from the bill dealing with hemp, state senators have spent more than a year discussing the prospect of legalizing marijuana for medical purposes.
Committees debated the bill but it has not made it to the floor of the Senate for a vote. The bill would legalize marijuana for specified conditions such as PTSD and cancer. Opponents of the measure are concerned it would be a step toward full legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes.
“On the medical marijuana, if it can help people with terminal illnesses as it’s defined to do, and in terminal pain, I don’t see why we wouldn’t do it,” said Sen. Jackson.
In a recent poll CBS 17 conducted with Emerson College and the Hill, 68 percent of voters said they support legalization for medical purposes. Support dropped to 46 percent when asked if they support it for recreational use.
Sen. Mike Woodard (D-Durham) said the bill’s sponsors planned to meet Tuesday, but it remained unclear if the bill would get a vote during the short session that’s expected to end by July 1.
“We’re still working through it. There’s a lot of questions. This is a big step for North Carolina. I think an important and necessary step, but a big step,” Sen. Woodard said.
Last week, House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) said it’s unlikely the issue would be resolved during the current session.
“You get into an issue like that and you’re here in short session, that would be a very significant lift to start dealing with any of that,” he said.