North Carolina state lawmakers introduced legislation this week to legalize the possession and sale of marijuana in The Tar Heel State. Democratic state Reps. John Autry, Allison Dahle, Pricey Harrison and Zack Hawkins introduced the legislation, known as H.B. 617, on Tuesday, or 4/20, the annual pot holiday.
It would legalize the possession of up to two ounces of most forms of cannabis, several cannabis plants and other cannabis products for people who are 21 or older. It also includes regulations on lab testing of cannabis, taxation of marijuana products, creating cannabis-related facilities and more. The bill further proposes expunging certain marijuana convictions for state residents in addition to creating an “Office of Social Equity,” which would be tasked with encouraging “full participation in the regulated cannabis industry by people from communities that have previously been disproportionately harmed by cannabis prohibition.”
State Rep. Mary Belk (D), a co-sponsor of the bill, told CBS affiliate WBTV that communities of color are “4.2 times more likely” to be arrested for marijuana in the state's Mecklenburg County, which include Charlotte. The lawmaker did not cite a specific study, but the American Civil Liberties Union found in 2018 that a Black person is 4.2 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people in the county.
“That affects how you get a job. Once you’re in the system, you’re in the system, and that affects every aspect of your live. It’s unnecessary,” she told the outlet.
GOP state Sen. Bill Rabon has introduced separate legislation to legalize medical marijuana in the state for patients suffering from cancer, epilepsy, Parkinson’s Disease and more. But the bill does not legalize the recreational use of cannabis products.
North Carolina’s neighbor Virginia became the first Southern state to legalize marijuana earlier this month.