Industry News & Updates

Law Enforcement Can't Tell Hemp from Marijuana—Says Ban Flower

By Marc Lewis

The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation has proposed sweeping changes to hemp laws. Including making smoking hemp illegal, enforcing a ban on edibles, and only allowing the sale of hemp products made and tested in NC.

Proposed changes are in response to law enforcement officers having difficulty distinguishing between hemp and marijuana. According to the SBI, “Every quantity of hemp and/or marijuana is important for police investigations, from the cigarettes to the ‘dime’ bag to a bale.”

Here’s the SBI’s full proposal to limit the confusion around hemp:

There are several possible solutions which allow farmers in NC to grow industrial hemp, but also allow the criminal justice system to continue to seize marijuana, and charge and prosecute marijuana offenses. Below is a listing of possible solutions:

  1. Limit the varieties of hemp that can be grown in NC to those which are used in rope, clothing, and paper. Do not allow the variety of hemp that produces “buds” similar to marijuana.
  2. Modify the definition of marijuana in 90-87(16) as follows:

(16) “Marijuana” means all parts of the plant of the genus Cannabis, whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds or resin, but shall not include the mature stalks of such plant, fiber produced from such stalks, oil, or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination. The term does not include industrial hemp as defined in G.S. 106-568.51, when the industrial hemp is produced in compliance with rules issued by the North Carolina Industrial Hemp Commission and provided to a processor. The possession or sale of hemp in any other circumstance, unless in lawful possession pursuant to the North Carolina Epilepsy Act, is unlawful.

In addition to 1) and 2), the following conditions are warranted:

  • An individual must be 18 or older to purchase or possess hemp, hemp extract, and CBD products.
  • Provide immunity for law enforcement officers who seize hemp and hemp products during the course of an investigation, even if the products fall within the legal limits of THC and CBD.
  • Clarify that all paraphernalia used to smoke plant-based materials (whether hemp or marijuana) is illegal.

Alternative solutions may include:

  • Plant based materials and plant based commercial products cannot be made in hemp processing facilities in NC. Only oils, balms, lotions, salves, etc. can be made in these facilities.
  • Hemp in plant form cannot leave processing facilities.
  • Hemp in plant form cannot be sold by processors or commercial businesses. It can only be sold by NC farmers with a license from the NC Department of Agriculture.
  • Mandate that only growers and processors with a license from the NC Industrial Hemp Commission can possess hemp or hemp plants. Any other person who possesses hemp or hemp plants will be charged with possession of a Schedule VI controlled substance.
  • Hemp and CBD containing edibles such as candies, gummies, lollipops, brownies, etc. cannot be sold or possessed in NC. No edible hemp and CBD food products. (this follows FDA regulations)
  • Place a ban on smoking hemp, hemp products, hemp extracts, and CBD products.
  • Regulate CBD oils to ensure they oils sold in NC are produced by NC farmers, tested by the Department of Ag to fall within legal limits of THC and CBD. The oil products could have a label and tax stamp. Any CBD products without this tax stamp would be illegal to manufacture, sell, or possess.
  • Place a tax stamp on all hemp grown in NC and CBD products manufactured in NC. This stamp could go on all products by NC licensed growers and processors. This tax stamp would allow for the product to be followed from the field to the processor to the store. It would ensure that hemp grown by NC farmers is being sold to NC processors, and then sold in NC retail stores. It also ensures that the products fall within the legal THC limits. Any hemp and CBD products without the tax stamp would be illegal to manufacture, sell, or possess.
  • License hemp/CBD retail stores in NC. A store must be on the approved list to sell hemp and CBD products.
  • Add Epidiolex to Schedule V so it can be prescribed by physicians in NC. This is an FDA approved pharmaceutical form of CBD which is already a Federal Schedule V controlled substance.

SBI Exhibit Shout out to our friends at Oak City Cannabis for the product feature.

Of course there are no shortage of issues with this request. One, flower represents economic opportunity for farmers who have seen demand for tobacco decline over the years. North Carolina, with its fertile tobacco land, could become a hub for the growing hemp industry. Regulations that will stunt growth in order to protect the governments right to pursue “dime” bags unabated seems silly.

National trends related to heroin use disorder, prescription opioids addiction, and the use and sale of crystal meth show little signs of receding. That’s especially true here in North Carolina, as the state that had what the CDC calls “statistically significant” increase in drug overdose deaths from 2016 to 2017. Given the science to support hemp derivatives may help ease the symptoms of withdrawal, prevent relapse, and, with cannabis more broadly, lower the opioid-related death rate, it seems like legislators might be interested in promoting, not prosecuting, realistic alternatives to the drugs that kill so many.

Now, regulation of sale, licensing, testing requirements, age of consumption—all these are legitimate concerns in the cannabis space. They are topics to discuss. But to make hemp a boogeyman that further ties up our court system, puts more people on the wrong side of that system, and stunts economic growth—especially in rural parts of our state—makes little sense. Committee members were slated to discuss Senate Bill 315 and the SBI’s proposal on May 23.

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