WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The Winston-Salem Journal reported June 4 that the North Carolina Legislature is considering two bills that would legalize marijuana in the state.
Sen. Paul Lowe (D) sponsored the Senate bill with the intent to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. Senate Bill 791 and House Bill 994 would legalize marijuana possession for recreational use. The House bill was introduced by Rep. Kelly Alexander Jr. (D).
Up to 4 ounces of marijuana would be legal under the new legislation as they are written currently. The current penalty for marijuana possession of less than a half-ounce of marijuana includes up to 20 days of in jail or community service and is classified as a Class 3 misdemeanor.
The new legislation would also allow for those convicted of marijuana possession in the past to pay a $100 fee to petition the court to have their conviction expunged if they were convicted of less than 4 ounces.
Only 45 Percent of Voters in North Carolina Support Recreational Marijuana Legalization
According to polls conducted last April, voters in North Carolina support legalizing medical marijuana by 80 percent, but only support recreational marijuana by 45 percent. At least 51 percent were opposed to legalizing the drug in the state.
Young people overwhelmingly support legalizing the drug with 65 percent of millennials supporting recreational marijuana. Just 11 percent of those born before 1944 support legal weed.
Forsyth County, N.C., District Attorney Jim O'Neill said that the legislation needed to be thoroughly vetted and called the allowable amount of marijuana proposed in the legislation "absurd."
The bills would have to go to the House Judiciary Committee for a vote if passed and would be effective July 1, however, it is unlikely the bill will pass the Republican-controlled General Assembly.
Only 33 percent of Republicans support legalizing recreational marijuana compared to 49 percent of Democrats, and two medical marijuana bills that were introduced last year did not get past the Senate Committee stages, even though 80 percent of voters in the state support legalizing the drug for medicinal purposes. North Carolina is one of twenty states that don’t have a legal form of medical marijuana.
Men in the state support legalizing recreational use by 53 percent, while women only support legalization for personal use by 38 percent. Medical marijuana garnered more approval in the state. Republicans were in support of legalizing medical marijuana by 73 percent, and both Democrats and independents support medical marijuana by 83 percent.