North Carolina considers ban on smokable hemp

North Carolina is considering a ban on smokable hemp, but farmers say that would stifle market opportunity in a fast-growing new industry.

The ban is part of a bill outlining North Carolina’s industrial hemp pilot program.

The state’s Bureau of Investigation is pushing for the ban, saying it’s difficult for law enforcement to discern smokable hemp from marijuana.

The measure passed the state Senate Agriculture Committee this week.

Tenfold increase in growers

North Carolina’s hemp industry is booming, thanks to flexible state laws about production and climate suited to the plant. Farmers say hemp is an easy pivot from tobacco, North Carolina’s traditional cash crop.

North Carolina authorized hemp production in 2017 and, like many states, has seen huge growth in farming and processing activity.

North Carolina saw nearly a tenfold increase in hemp growers from 2017 to 2019, with more coming on board each month. The state has no cap on growers or acreage, and the state licenses new producers throughout the year.

North Carolina currently has:

  • 11,572 outdoor hemp acres.
  • 4.5 million square feet of indoor hemp cultivation.
  • 933 licensed hemp farmers.

Law enforcement concerns

But marijuana remains illegal in North Carolina, and law enforcement officials say smoked hemp is easily mistaken for its more potent counterpart. Several “dispensaries” selling pre-rolled hemp cigarettes have popped up across the state.

According to a recent memo from the state Bureau of Investigation, “the inability for law enforcement to distinguish the difference between hemp and marijuana is problematic in all marijuana prosecutions.”

A woman in Four Oaks, North Carolina, was arrested in April and charged with marijuana possession after police officers saw her smoking what looked and smelled like marijuana. She has told reporters that she was smoking hemp, not marijuana.

Hemp farmers are urging lawmakers to reconsider the ban. Many of them came to the Senate to oppose banning smokable hemp.

“We want to work for regulation,” said Lori Lacy, a hemp farmer from Franklin, North Carolina. “I don’t want our infrastructure and everything that we have built up to this point to go away. I will have to fire people.”

The bill still must go through three more committees before reaching the Senate floor. The measure has not yet been considered by the North Carolina House of Representatives.

The North Carolina Bureau of Investigation also requested that lawmakers limit legal hemp cultivation to fiber and grain varieties, something lawmakers have declined to consider.

– Associated Press contributed to this report.

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30 comments on “North Carolina considers ban on smokable hemp
  1. Barbara King on

    I live in North Carolina, Cannabis/ Medical marijuana is coming you better get used to it, 35 states
    are now selling MMJ, 15 more to go. Cannabis does not kill, OPIOIDS do.

    Read Ezekiel 34/29 you won’t read about OPIOIDS.

    A lot of people go to other states to get MMJ, making other states rich in tax dollars, N.C. get’s zero in Tax dollars ( Real Smart)

    Reply
    • Monique Dawn Marcano on

      I never smoked marijuana in my life and I was always against drugs and then I developed PTSD and when I was in Seattle I was able legally to try hemp flower without THC and I’m so thankful because now I’m more relaxed and less combative in life. And prescription drugs is extremely harmful to our body and our liver. I will fight to get this legal in North Carolina. This helps. You allow alcohol which does not help anyone but you’re not going to allow marijuana that helps everyone how in the hell does that make sense

      Reply
      • Daniel Ortega on

        As a hemp and cannabis advocate, I agree with you Monique. I’m a testimonial to the amazing powers of both varieties. Although I can’t smoke or vape anymore because I have a permanent compromised left lung with scar tissue causing the problem from a VA misdiagnosis. It led to pneumonia and fluid build up in my left plural cavity. I now make DIY oral tinctures for my pain and they work. CannabisForSeniors.Org is my website to get the work out about both Cannabis and Industrial Hemp. Just pass it along for natural health and well being.

        Reply
    • Regina on

      If marijuana became legal that would put the a lot of pharmaceutical companies out of business. That is the only reason that it hasn’t become legal in a lot of states. Doctors make money off promoting medications like opioids for pain. I am not ashamed to say that I smoke marijuana for chronic pain in my back and legs and it helps.

      Reply
  2. Charles Atkins on

    This is an overreaction to a problem that can be solved if the hemp industry is given a chance to try an find a solution first.
    The North Carolina Bureau of Investigation is throwing away the baby with the bath water here. It hasn’t even reached out to the hemp industry to find a reasonable compromise first. It’s hastily working to ban smokable hemp flower outright.
    This is not the way this should be playing out. This is a renewed industry that needs to be given a chance to find solutions to its own problems first before such drastic measures are even considered.

    Reply
  3. Jason on

    Seems like North Carolina needs to either get with the times and work on legislation to legalize marijuana or develop an on the spot test for thc. I use CBD-hemp flower every day for anxiety. How would it be fair to not allow access because the state ‘can’t tell the difference?’. Poor excuse if you ask me. Seems like an easy out.

    Reply
  4. S.Holzschuh on

    Portable device that can measure THC level similar to breathalyzer could prove hemp vrs MMJ substance. Law enforcement would have a tool to test verses busting hemp smokers until all cannabis is legal. Wish I had the engineering and science background to develop the device. Somebody needs to do it.

    Just a thought…

    Reply
    • kent Cantwell on

      Made in Germany: THC detection device for around $400USD. Uneducated cops, as well as many other citizens must not realize that for about $10 you can get THC urine test strips at Walmart. These tests for THC in the urine instantly. Scenario: NC cop smells “pot” in a group of teens. All he has to do is escort them to a bathroom and collect samples along with ID. He will know right there on the spot if they are or have been doing THC. Then he will know whether to confiscate and arrest, or say, “have a nice day” and walk away.

      Reply
  5. Michelle on

    This is crazy NC is so far behind times they need to leave it alone also they need to legalize medical marijuana the opiod crisis is bad here and they do nothing it’s been proven that in states where it is legal they have fewer deaths and people need to have a choice chose Another option to treat pain plus make a positive inpact on our economy

    Reply
  6. Aaron Hinesley on

    I find it funny they want to ban a product because it’s too close to its neighbor. Ok lets also ban airsoft guns and glass root beer too. Because thats too close to real guns and real beer…

    Reply
  7. Donna on

    We have a Dispensary in Winston-Salem, I would say 70 % of sales is flower. The people want it, if taken away the people will still get it anyway just like marijuana. Make it all legal take your tax money and move on to the opioid crisis.

    Reply
  8. Just do this on

    The second the politicians figure out how to funnel all of the profit to their best buds and their very own pockets all of these issues will disappear

    Reply
  9. david richardson on

    NC Sucks. As per usual. Hate living here. Our tax dollars hard at work, to enforce antiquated laws that put NON VIOLENT PEOPLE behind bars.

    Reply
  10. Suzi on

    This is so stupid. North Carolina needs to get with the times. Just make Marijuana legal. That way you can see it and make it taxable. Plus it can be regulated so phentenol can’t be put into it. Let’s get this state up and running again. Bring in more jobs,better school’s, cause your not using education lottery on our education system, don’t know who’s pocketing that money or our road tax money, but you could use Marijuana taxes for all the above .

    Reply
  11. Jon on

    Why is it something that has proven medicinal value and is safer than opiates and alcohol illegal?!? Does that even make sense?!? No, it doesn’t!! Not even in the slightest. Not to mention the money potential to be made from both hemp and marijuana. Illegalizing smokable hemp is stupid. 88,000 people die annually from alcohol and tobacco kills another 480,000 annually (including deaths from secondhand smoke) according to the CDC and yet, here we are debating about the illegalization of a non-deadly product that has never killed anybody since they started keeping records. I hate that our government tries to control every aspect of our lives. I hate that the people put in charge of these things is so corrupt that they can’t do the right thing because they are in the pockets of the powers that be. This country is a hot mess right now and we should be concentrating on fixing that and worry about the small stuff later. Hemp and marijuana aren’t going anywhere any time soon and we’ll still be smoking it while they try and decide what to do anyway. Idiots.

    Reply
  12. Andrea on

    We should be able to smoke it , infuse tea or coffee if we want. People are coming off if strong drugs with this hemp. They are not getting high!! People need to want what is best for others. Let people heal themselves naturally!! So many people have been able to get rid of harsh drugs and pharmaceuticals. God’s natural supplement!!

    Reply
  13. chris hansen on

    yes, i agree…extreme outreach ! NC SBI… if not being able to adjust? not able to actually go after the real dangerous drugs including FDA Approved poisons? it is just sad we have a faction of the government that is screaming…”we can’t do our job if we can’t bust people for weed!”. sick excuse for law professionals. we are absolutely helping people with cbd, in all forms, to get off of other illegal or heavy pharmaceuticals. What are they doing??? oh i forgot… they just think everyone is guilty and they need easy job security.

    Reply
  14. A a on

    All they need to do is confiscate and test for potency… over 1% Marijuana..police keep ….. under 1% hemp & police return property…. very simple

    Reply
  15. Joe Kirkpatrick on

    Tennessee codified the definition of “smoking hemp” and made it legal for those who have achieved the age of majority. In 2020, we are going to attempt to remove the smell of cannabis as the primary cause for the search of a vehicle or property. We love law enforcement here. They need to quit wasting their lives messing with decent people. Don’t give in. You are right. They are wrong. Hemp is non-psychotropic. End of story. There are field testing kits that can give a preponderance of evidence that a cannabis product is not marijuana. We are seeking funding to put those in the hands of law enforcement. The big rub is all of the off budget, slush fund money law enforcement gets from asset forfeiture. Asset forfeiture is a nasty, un-American, unconstitutional process. Every other agency in government must justify their budget. The prosecutors and law enforcement lobbyists should be the same. Joe Kirkpatrick • President • Tennessee Hemp Industries Association.

    https://publications.tnsosfiles.com/acts/111/pub/pc0303.pdf

    Reply
  16. George on

    ”The state’s Bureau of Investigation is pushing for the ban, saying it’s difficult for law enforcement to discern smokable hemp from ”.

    Get over it NC. Wake up and smell the flower. Many things are changing even in NC. Women can vote. Trump is a wack job and masturbation is no longer illegal, well sort of, there is a fine of 35 cents or three for a dollar.

    If law enforcement is so incompetent they can’t use google to find one of the several portable testing machines on the market they should be fired. Twice. Once again we see that the most dangerous thing about any cannabis product is Law enforcement. Just go back to the donut shop or shine your skin heads or something, cannabis is no longer your low hanging fruit. We get to defend ourselves now. Leave our flowers alone!

    Reply
  17. Melanie Harrington on

    I have been in pain clinics and on opiods since 2010. I was in a head on collision. Now i have degenerative disc disease in my neck and back. I have Glaucoma AND MS. I need a knee replacement and the list goes on. I hate taking pills. Smoking hemp dont take away the pain, but it sure does help ME deal with it better. And in a safe environment. If police cant distinguish the difference, wouldn’t it be easier just to legalize it all? I mean instead of making part of hemp legal and another part illegal? It STILL makes it harder on law enforcement. Legalize it all, and let us live…before we die…

    Reply
  18. Gary on

    “If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so.”
    Thomas Jefferson

    North Carolina should worry about something important like actual drugs and not cannabis in any form.
    They should Spend the time, energy and money to enforce laws related to the opioid issue we have and leave a naturally growing plant that has been around for thousands of years and helps people alone.
    So what if it looks and smells like high THC level marijuana, whoop-de-do and who cares.
    There are lots of laws on the books that law enforcement choose not to enforce.
    Move on to something that matters and I can assure you marijuana isn’t it and will not be illegal in 5 years so get with the program.

    Reply
  19. Jam Marsh on

    It’s getting smoked whether NC collects taxes off it or not. We’re moving out West where I can have my medicine and not feel like a criminal.
    And to the gentleman in the comments above- you can’t test people on the side of the road- it stays in your system for 30 days so that won’t work and is not based on probable cause. They can’t say they smell it anymore and search you so, nope.
    N.C. could be a leader in hemp and marijuana and testing and cartridge packaging and PTSD treatment for out Vets- instead we’re going backwards some more. Y’all have fun with it- I’m done waiting. I’ll go pay taxes to Colorado or Oregon.

    Reply
  20. Jared Bownds on

    This proposed ban is sorely misguided.

    Overall, if NC’s heart is set on imposing this level of unnecessary control and power then it needs to adopt a method to test for THC in the field. NC is going to want this capability since no doubt this state will be surrounded by states where THC is legal.

    Ultimately, NC needs to get with the program. Go focus on areas that make a measurable improvement in people’s lives.

    Reply

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