Roberts Law Group, PLLC
North Carolina Criminal Defense Attorneys
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Marijuana bill would decriminalize possession for personal use

Over the past several years, state laws across the country have moved away from harsh penalties for personal marijuana use - penalties that disproportionately affect minorities and students. Today, medical marijuana is legal in the majority of states (31, including D.C.), and recreational marijuana is legal in nine.

In North Carolina, getting busted with marijuana is still a big deal. Possession of a half-ounce or more is a class 1 misdemeanor punishable by fines and potential jail time. Get caught with 1.5 ounces or more, and you'll be facing a class 1 felony, which means up to eight months in prison and up to $1,000 in fines. Both types of convictions will result in a criminal record that could haunt you for a long time to come.

A new bill could change that.

What the bill would accomplish: 4 takeaways

In its current form, as recently introduced in the North Carolina House of Representatives, HB 994 would roll back the criminalization of personal marijuana use in four key ways:

  1. Possession of four ounces or less for personal use would no longer be a crime.
  2. Possession of more than four ounces (up to 16 ounces) would be a class 1 misdemeanor.
  3. Possession of more than a pound of marijuana would be a class 1 felony.
  4. Anyone who was previously convicted for possessing four ounces or less could apply for expungement.

The last component would provide a fresh start for those with tarnished criminal records due to marijuana possession.

But will it pass?

If passed, the law would go into effect in July. But it's far too soon to start celebrating. The bill's primary sponsor - Representative Kelly Alexander (D-Mecklenburg) - has introduced medical marijuana legislation every session since 2009, without success. And public opinion in North Carolina has yet to shift in favor of full-fledged legalization of recreational marijuana. According to one oft-cited Elon University poll, while 80 percent of respondents supported medical marijuana, only 45 percent supported recreational use.

Still, it's a step in the right direction, bringing greater awareness and discourse to an issue that will likely remain at the forefront during the coming election season.

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