A set of bills in North Carolina might soon allow residents to possess up to 4 ounces of marijuana for personal use. The proposed legislation represents an effort “to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana,” Sen. Paul Lowe, the bill’s primary sponsor in the Senate, told the Winston-Salem Journal.
“This is heading in the right direction,” he said.
The bills would dramatically raise the current legal limits and consequences in North Carolina. Current laws dictate that possession of half an ounce or less of marijuana, or any controlled substances, is a Class 3 misdemeanor. The offense has a possible punishment of up to 20 days or community service.
In addition, possession of 1.5 ounces of marijuana is a Class 1 felony, a charge “punishable by up to five months’ active sentence period,” according to the Winston-Salem Journal. The proposed legislation would raise that limit of a Class 1 felony to 1 pound.
Jim O’Neill, the Forsyth County District Attorney, told the Journal the proposed legislation must be “thoroughly vetted, and must include and consider the scientific community’s evidence of the damage caused to the developing adolescent brain caused by marijuana smoking.”
O’Neill added that he considers Lowe “a friend and someone I truly respect, but to characterize 4 ounces of marijuana as a user amount would be absurd.”
The big question, though, is if either bill will reach past committee.
However, it’s unlikely either bill advances out of committee, in part given GOP legislative leaders’ focus on passing a non-amended state budget for 2018-19 and on school safety legislation. Those leaders also have said their goal is to end the current session by the Fourth of July weekend.
If approved, the laws would go into effect by July 1. By all estimations, North Carolinians will have to wait longer than that for any new marijuana legislation.