NC could be the next state to legalize marijuana

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NC could be the next state to legalize marijuana

Medical cannabis within the U.S.Source: Marijuana Legalization Map

Medical cannabis within the U.S.
Source: Marijuana Legalization Map

Medical cannabis within the U.S.
Source: Marijuana Legalization Map

Medical cannabis within the U.S.
Source: Marijuana Legalization Map

Peyton Forte, Contributor

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Though only ten states including Washington, D.C. have legalized marijuana use, North Carolina could soon become the 11th.

A group of North Carolina lawmakers, headed by state representative Kelly Alexander, traveled to Raleigh to introduce legislation decriminalizing the medical use of marijuana, according to WNCN.

North Carolina is currently only allowing cannabidiol (CBD) products that are no more than 0.9 percent THC and at least five percent CBD, though medical CBD use is not heavily regulated, says Dan Sefa of Royal CBD.

CBD is an extract of the marijuana plant, and while it does not invoke a high, CBD is widely used for its medicinal properties.

Under the new bill, North Carolinians can possess up to four ounces of marijuana with no legal ramifications. It would also allow for each county to make the autonomous decision of legalizing the drug, similar to regulations regarding the ABC liquor store chain.

For those backing the proposed bill, their support is rooted in decriminalization rather than just legalizing the drug.

“We’re criminalizing more and more people that probably shouldn’t be criminalized. Something should be done, but they shouldn’t be criminalized,” said bill co-sponsor Paul Lowe Jr. to WSOC.

For many proponents of legalization, part of decriminalization means expunging the records of those with prior convictions, but it has yet to be confirmed if this is a stipulation of the bill.

Of the states that have legalized recreational marijuana use, only five of them (California, Colorado, Maryland, New Hampshire and Oregon) have some variation of legislation in place to expunge the records of those convicted of possession, cultivation or distribution of marijuana.

Arrest rates tend to be higher among African-Americans and racial disparities remain despite legalization.

“(Marijuana) should be legalized but these laws can have loopholes that still marginalize minorities,” said Myles Wilder, sophomore horticulture student.

A report by the Drug Policy Alliance offered a status report, which evaluated the demographic impacts of marijuana among states where the drug is legal.

The report found:

  • A black person in Washington, D.C. is 11 times more likely than a white person to be arrested for public consumption of marijuana.
  • Alaska’s marijuana arrest rate for black people (17.7 per 100,000) is ten times greater than that of white people (1.8 per 100,000) despite black people only making up four percent of the population.
  • In Colorado, marijuana arrests for white people decreased by 51 percent, but only decreased by 33 percent for latinx people and 25 percent for black people between 2012 and 2014.

For Americans who carry a record due to past marijuana convictions, it can be disheartening to witness the wealthy profiting from legalization. Meanwhile, felons who have had these charges must suffer the consequences of the impossibilities of  obtaining employment or housing.

Marijuana legalization has never been more popular, with a reported 62 percent of Americans supporting it, according to the Pew Research Center. This has influenced the growing commonality of cannabis reform throughout the country.

Reform might be coming to NC, and the cannabis craze is gaining traction in the State House. The earliest the group of lawmakers can introduce any cannabis reform is late January or early February of 2019.

“It’s time now for the legislators in North Carolina to catch up with the people,” said Alexander.