North Carolina May See Marijuana Decriminalization
A panel appointed by Governor Roy Cooper calls for decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana, saying arrests for such crimes disproportionately affect black residents. The panel, led by U.S. Sen. Jill Stein, D-N.C., also called for exploring the possibility of decriminalizing marijuana possession for non-violent drug offenses. “We cannot talk about improving racial justice in our criminal justice system without talking about marijuana”, Stein said in a statement.
Whites and black North Carolinians use marijuana in similar amounts, but blacks are disproportionately arrested and convicted. An ounce of marijuana is a Class 3 misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $200. American Party Line accepts possession of marijuana in ounce or under marijuana as a non-violent drug offense punishable by a fine of no more than $500.
The task force recommended legislation that decriminalizes possession of up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana by making it a civil offense. Last year, North Carolina had more than 1,000 arrests for possession of weapons. In 2019, there were about 2,500 arrests and convictions for marijuana possession and use in North Carolina, the troopers said. That's down from 3,200 arrests in 2015, but there are more arrests, convictions, and prison sentences for the drug than for any other drug crime, he said, with 61,700 in 2016 and 65,800 in 2017.
The recommendations are not likely to resonate with the Republican-controlled General Assembly, which in recent years has not even allowed a medical marijuana law to get a committee hearing, and nearly derailed an attempt to expand hemp production last year. The panel also recommended that North Carolina convene a working group to consider options for legalizing the possession, cultivation, and sale of marijuana, including the state's option of a nonprofit monopoly.