RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – The legislation that would make hemp and CBD legal in North Carolina is headed for the desk of Gov. Roy Cooper.
Senate Bill 455 was passed by the state House on Wednesday following unanimous approval in the Senate.
The bill would allow farmers to continue to grow hemp as a foundation for the fiber found in rope and garments and other products but also for the CBD products, such as oils, vapes and other consumables. The difference is that these products are very low in intoxicants, such as THC, and serve more to soothe people than to make them high.
It’s also a precursor to a move by the Senate to approve medical marijuana. That measure cleared its final committee on Wednesday and could get a full vote in the Senate as soon as today. Should that occur, prospects for its being reviewed by the House in this session are slim.
The House also was not totally behind the hemp bill that passed by a vote of 86-25. Among those 25 Republicans voting nay were House Speaker Pro Tempore Rep. Sarah Stevens, who represents Surry, Wilkes and Alleghany counties, Rep. John Faircloth of Guilford County, Pat Hurley of Randolph County and Ben Moss of Montgomery County.
WGHP reached out via email to each of those representatives to ask what prompted their votes, but most did not respond immediately.
Faircloth responded with a phone call to say that he supports medical marijuana but he thought the hemp bill was too complex and “tried to do too many things. This is such a complex bill,” he said. “I was not satisfied with the way it defined marijuana and hemp and that it protected folks.”
Others may have been concerned that the decriminalization of hemp was a concern among law enforcement agents – Faircloth, for one, was a lifelong police officer and said that was a bit of a factor – but that was unclear.
State Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Whitsett) said on the House floor that the sheriff’s association and state agriculture department had no objection to the bill.
“I’ve not heard from any other law enforcement agencies,” WRAL quoted Hardister as saying while discussing the bill.
Law enforcement officials had opposed this law, wanting hemp and marijuana to remain illegal, but Eddie Caldwell of the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association, which has long led the opposition, told WRAL TV that his group does not have a position on the law.
“We will be following it and consulting with the association leadership if it continues moving through the legislative process,” Caldwell said.
A WGHP/The Hill/Emerson College Poll found that a majority of North Carolinians support some form of legalized marijuana. That poll, conducted in April among registered voters, found that 68% of respondents support the legalization of medical marijuana, and 19% said it should not be legal. North Carolina is one of only six states that don’t allow medical marijuana.
Since Hemp farming became legal under federal law in 2014, there are about 1,500 hemp growers and more than 1,200 processors in North Carolina registered under the USDA Domestic Hemp Production Rule. But North Carolina has looked at this as a pilot program, which was scheduled to end in June. Since January all those producers had to be registered under that USDA rule.
The 2022 Farm Act redefines the difference between hemp and marijuana. Hemp is described as being cannabis that has 0.3% less Delta-9, which is the chemical that makes a marijuana user high. Hemp would be removed permanently from the state’s list of controlled substances. There are 31 other states in which hemp is decriminalized, as North Carolina does for now.