Medically reviewed by Alexander Tabibi, MD
September 8, 2023

In this article, we will explore the current legal status of weed in North Carolina. We’ll provide an in-depth overview of the state’s marijuana laws, including both medicinal and recreational use, penalties for possession and distribution, and any recent updates or pending legislation.

This post is intended as information and for general knowledge only. It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is recommended that you talk to a healthcare professional about this before introducing cannabinoids into your daily routine (especially if you have been diagnosed with any medical conditions or are under any medication). It is not recommended to drive or operate any machinery when using cannabis- or hemp-derived products. Use responsibly!

Marijuana Laws in North Carolina

North Carolina, like many states in the United States, has strict laws regarding marijuana. For now marijuana for recreational use remains illegal in North Carolina. However, the state has made some progress in the realm of medical cannabis.

The North Carolina General Assembly passed the Senate Bill 313 in 2014, known as the “North Carolina Epilepsy Alternative Treatment Act,” which allowed the use of CBD products with low levels of delta 9 THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) for individuals diagnosed with intractable epilepsy. This was a significant step towards recognizing the potential medical benefits of cannabis-derived products, particularly CBD (cannabidiol), which is non-psychoactive.

Medical Marijuana in North Carolina

Under the Compassionate Use Act, patients with certain medical conditions can access medical marijuana. The Act expanded beyond epilepsy patients, allowing for the use of medical cannabis for various debilitating medical conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and terminal illnesses. However, despite this expansion, North Carolina’s medical marijuana program remains restrictive compared to some other states.

To be eligible for medical marijuana in North Carolina, patients must have a qualifying medical condition diagnosed by a licensed physician. Once qualified, patients can register with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to obtain a medical marijuana card, allowing them to access medical cannabis products.

Recreational Marijuana in North Carolina

Unlike several other states in the U.S., North Carolina has not legalized recreational marijuana. There have been periodic discussions and debates within the state about the potential benefits and drawbacks of recreational legalization, but as of my last update, there were no concrete legislative efforts in place.

It’s worth noting that neighboring states like Virginia have taken steps towards marijuana legalization, which could influence the discussions in North Carolina. Additionally, public opinion plays a vital role in shaping the trajectory of marijuana legalization, and North Carolina residents’ perspectives may evolve over time.

Penalties for Marijuana Possession and Distribution

Possession of marijuana for recreational use in North Carolina can result in criminal charges. The severity of the penalties depends on the amount of marijuana possessed. Possession of less than one ounce is considered a misdemeanor, punishable by fines and potential jail time. Possession of larger quantities can escalate the charges to a felony, particularly if there is intent to distribute.

In the case of medical marijuana patients, possessing cannabis products with a higher concentration of THC, above the legal limit of 0.3% THC, could lead to legal issues even if they have a valid medical marijuana card.

Enforcement of Marijuana Laws

Law enforcement practices regarding marijuana offenses can vary across the state. While some jurisdictions may be more lenient, others may have stricter enforcement policies. Despite the statewide legalization of hemp (with less than 0.3% THC) for industrial and agricultural purposes, distinguishing between hemp and marijuana products with higher THC concentrations can present challenges for law enforcement.

There have been concerns raised about racial disparities in marijuana law enforcement. Some studies have shown that African American North Carolinians are disproportionately arrested and convicted for marijuana offenses compared to their white counterparts, despite similar usage rates.

Public Opinion and Support for Legalization

Delta 8 in North Carolina, Legal, State Law

Public opinion on marijuana legalization in North Carolina is diverse and evolving. Several polls have indicated a growing trend of support for medical cannabis, with many residents recognizing its potential benefits for individuals with debilitating medical conditions. However, the support for recreational legalization remains more divided.

Various stakeholders, including lawmakers, law enforcement, medical professionals, and advocacy groups, have expressed differing views on marijuana legalization. Some argue that legalization could lead to increased tax revenue and economic benefits, while others are concerned about potential public health and safety issues.

The Future of Marijuana Legalization in North Carolina

The future of marijuana legalization in North Carolina remains uncertain. As societal attitudes towards cannabis continue to shift, it is possible that lawmakers may introduce new bills to expand medical cannabis access or even consider recreational legalization.

Neighboring states, like New Mexico, recently passed marijuana bills, which could influence North Carolina’s approach. Additionally, federal law changes and shifts in national marijuana policies may also impact the state’s decisions on marijuana legalization.


For now recreational marijuana remains illegal in North Carolina, while medical cannabis is available to qualifying patients under the Compassionate Use Act. Public opinion, legislative actions, and neighboring states’ policies will continue to shape the trajectory of marijuana laws in North Carolina.

While some progress has been made in recognizing the medical potential of cannabis through CBD products, the state’s stance on recreational use remains conservative. As attitudes and perceptions surrounding marijuana continue to evolve, it’s possible that North Carolina’s marijuana laws may undergo significant changes in the future. As with any legal matter, it is crucial for North Carolinians to stay informed about the latest developments and seek professional advice from a qualified criminal defense attorney when necessary.