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.”
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:
(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:
Alternative solutions may include:
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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