nc rules for cbd oil

CBD Oil in North Carolina

In every state, there comes a time when lawmakers have to listen to the people’s will. To date, a significant majority of American states have legalized medical marijuana. That Canada has fully legalized the substance puts pressure on the United States to act. There is also a strong possibility that Mexico will follow suit sooner rather than later.

The rules surrounding CBD are often confusing, even in states where recreational cannabis is allowed. This issue is compounded in states where marijuana isn’t legal for medical use. As a result, we have created a series of guides outlining cannabidiol laws in various states. Today, we investigate the situation regarding CBD oil in North Carolina and outline its existing marijuana laws.

Is CBD Oil Legal in NC?

Determining whether CBD oil is legal in North Carolina isn’t straightforward. The Hope 4 Haley and Friends bill was introduced in North Carolina in 2014 and proposed legalizing CBD extract oils to help patients with epilepsy. The legislation was named after a young girl named Haley Ward, who suffered from daily seizures.

Governor McCrory signed the Epilepsy Alternative Treatment Act, or HB 1220, into law in 2014. He later signed amended legislation, called HB 766, into law in 2015.

However, the law didn’t create an infrastructure for patients to actually buy CBD oil in North Carolina. While qualifying patients are allowed to use and possess CBD oils with a minimum CBD content of 5% and a maximum THC content of 0.9%), there is no place to purchase such products in the state.

How Can I Buy CBD in North Carolina?

If you want CBD products with more than 0.3% THC but less than 0.9%, you must buy them in other states. However, transporting CBD products with more than 0.3% THC across state lines is technically a federal crime!

The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp with a maximum of 0.3% THC, but cannabis plants with a higher THC percentage are classified as marijuana, which remains a federally prohibited substance. This rule also applies to CBD products with a higher THC content than the Farm Bill threshold.

#4 is a MUST know!…

North Carolina does, however, allow the cultivation of industrial hemp with 0.3% THC or less. There are hundreds of stores that sell hemp-derived CBD products in North Carolina. Also, countless online CBD vendors ship directly to the state without issues.

Therefore, anyone looking to buy CBD oil in North Carolina should stick with hemp-derived CBD. Make sure it contains a maximum of 0.3% THC. Also, avoid using smokable hemp as police often mistake it for marijuana.

Unfortunately, there has been little movement in North Carolina regarding CBD products since 2015. Furthermore, the state doesn’t have a standard medical marijuana program.

Marijuana Laws in North Carolina

North Carolina has a reputation for being one of the strictest anti-cannabis states in America. However, it reduced penalties for the use of the substance in 1977.

A recent poll revealed that 54% of state residents favored recreational cannabis legalization. This was an increase of 9% from a 2017 poll that asked the same question.

Interestingly, support for MMJ reform dipped by 7% compared to the 2017 figure but remained strong at 73%. With almost three-quarters of North Carolina residents backing MMJ – and a majority in favor of full legalization – it is surely only a matter of time before lawmakers act.

Indeed, an updated MMJ bill is in the works. The North Carolina Compassionate Care Act, also known as Senate Bill 711, would allow patients with PTSD, epilepsy, cancer, and a handful of other conditions to legally use medical marijuana. However, while the legislation has made it through numerous committee votes, it has a long way to travel for approval.

Cannabis Penalties in North Carolina

The aforementioned poll found that 67% of North Carolina residents support reducing penalties for cannabis possession.

Currently, the possession of less than half an ounce is a Class 3 misdemeanor. It comes with a fine of up to $200 but no prison time, even if you have a criminal record. The hope is that North Carolina will reduce the penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana to a civil infraction.

It is still a misdemeanor if you are caught with between 0.5 and 1.5 ounces. However, you could serve up to 45 days in jail. Anything more than 1.5 ounces is a felony, with a 3-8 months prison term the likely outcome.

The sale or cultivation of any amount of marijuana is also a felony with a possible prison term of 8 months as the penalty for less than 10 pounds.

Any marijuana crime involving a minor is a more serious felony with a potential jail sentence of up to seven years!

Where Can I Buy CBD Oil in North Carolina?

Despite the opaque nature of the laws, there are a huge number of CBD vendors in North Carolina. However, there are no licensing laws, which means there is a free-for-all in the state. Just about anyone can sell CBD oil here with little to no regulations.

You should only purchase CBD oil from a company that offers third-party lab reports. This documentation proves that the product in question doesn’t contain any heavy metals, pesticides, or other harmful chemicals. It also outlines its cannabinoid content, including its CBD and THC levels.

Here are five CBD sellers in North Carolina with positive reputations.

How to Buy CBD Oil in NC Online

If you’re unable to visit any of the above stores or would rather have the convenience of getting CBD shipped to your door, here are five trustworthy online brands. These companies make their products in the USA and ship (often for free) to North Carolina residents within days.

You can find out more about each brand, and a handful of other great options, at the bottom of this article.

Final Thoughts on CBD Oil in North Carolina

As things stand, North Carolina is another state that doesn’t make its CBD laws overtly clear. There is no question that it is illegal to grow, sell, or use marijuana in the state. However, there is no such clarity in the CBD industry.

It is possible to purchase CBD oil in North Carolina from reputable online stores.

It is legal to cultivate industrial hemp with a maximum THC content of 0.3%. Yet, there is no guidance on whether North Carolina residents can use CBD products derived from this hemp. We know that only patients with epilepsy can use CBD oil with a maximum of 0.9% THC. Such individuals must register with the state’s approved medical program but have no place to buy the product.

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For everyone else, it is possible to purchase CBD oil in North Carolina from reputable online stores, such as the ones listed below. There doesn’t seem to be any legal crackdown on such products at present, nor does any such law seem likely.

Is CBD oil legal in North Carolina?

Yes. Hemp-derived CBD with less than 0.3% THC became legal at the federal level in 2018 and it is legal in North Carolina. In addition, hemp extract that contains less than 0.9% THC and at least 5% CBD by weight is legal if the person purchasing it is registered with the state as a patient with intractable epilepsy or a patient’s caregiver.

What is CBD?

CBD stands for cannabidiol. It is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in cannabis. Cannabidiol is the second-most abundant cannabinoid in the plant after tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It has many potential therapeutic benefits, including anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-anxiety, and seizure-suppressant properties. CBD can be sourced from both marijuana and hemp plants.

CBD stands for cannabidiol, a non-intoxicating substance found in cannabis. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Why is CBD sometimes illegal?

Even though industrial hemp plants don’t produce enough THC to cause intoxication, all types of cannabis, including hemp, were made illegal following the passage of the 1970 Federal Controlled Substances Act. The legislation swept all types of cannabis into the Schedule I category, which defined cannabis as a substance with a high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use, and a likelihood for addiction.

However, industrial hemp production was legalized after the passage of the 2018 US Farm Bill, which legalized hemp cultivation and created a pathway to remove some cannabis from Schedule I status by creating a legal divide: Hemp is cannabis that contains less than 0.3% THC by weight, and marijuana is cannabis that contains more than 0.3% THC.

To meet federal legal criteria, CBD oil must contain no more than 0.3 percent THC. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Hemp-derived CBD was thus descheduled by the bill, but CBD that is derived from the marijuana plant is still considered federally illegal because marijuana is categorized as a Schedule I substance. While hemp is now considered an agricultural commodity, it still must be produced and sold under regulations that implement the bill.

The Farm Bill also shifted oversight of hemp-derived products to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), giving the agency the ability to regulate CBD’s labeling, therapeutic claims, and its use as a food additive. Despite the passage of the Farm Bill, the FDA has taken the stance that even hemp-derived CBD may not be added to food and beverages, nor can this non-intoxicating cannabinoid be marketed as a dietary supplement.

While the FDA has begun a process of re-evaluating its stance on such CBD products, it has yet to revise its rules or specifically regulate CBD products, leading to further confusion. The FDA has been strict when it comes to health claims and content that could be construed as medical advice about CBD.

The federal legislation still highly regulates the production and sale of hemp and its cannabinoids, including CBD. The Farm Bill also provides that states may also regulate and even prohibit CBD cultivation and commerce. In addition, states may attempt to regulate CBD foods, beverages, dietary supplements, and cosmetic products, independently of the FDA finalizing its views on such products.

The FDA released guidance on the regulation of cannabis and hemp-derived CBD products in March of 2020. The agency is seeking high-quality, scientific data to help it understand and regulate CBD.

North Carolina CBD laws

North Carolina permitted the cultivation and production of hemp under the Industrial Hemp Pilot Program, authorized in 2014. The following year the North Carolina General Assembly passed Senate Bill 313, allowing the Industrial Hemp Commission to create rules and a licensing structure to stay within federal regulations. The law was modified again in 2016 with House Bill 992, which authorized a research program related to hemp.

The North Carolina Farm Act of 2019, or Senate Bill 315, originally added more clarifications on the production, distribution, and possession of CBD. However, after an impasse over outlawing smokable hemp, all mentions of the plant were stripped from the bill.

North Carolina’s hemp pilot program was set to expire in 2020 under a US congressional mandate but Congress extended the expiration date to September 20, 2021.

Separately from the industrial hemp pilot program, in 2014, the state passed House Bill 220, or the Epilepsy Alternative Treatment Act. It allowed patients with epilepsy who register with the state’s program to possess and use hemp extract with less than 0.9% THC and at least 5% CBD by weight.

Licensing requirements for CBD

There are no requirements or laws governing the production or sales of hemp-derived CBD with less than 0.3% THC. CBD is not approved by the FDA as a food or beverage additive or as an over-the-counter remedy for any condition. Suppliers need to adhere to federal guidelines and not make any false claims. Additional labeling guidelines can be found below in the section on CBD labels.

To possess hemp extract with 0.9% THC, patients and caregivers must submit a North Carolina Epilepsy Alternative Treatment Act Caregiver Registration Application. This application can be filled out online or sent to the North Carolina Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS). The program is only open to patients suffering from intractable epilepsy.

North Carolina CBD possession limits

There’s no possession limit for CBD products in North Carolina or for medical patients with epilepsy who have registered with the state. Medical hemp extract must contain less than 0.9% THC and at least 5% CBD by weight.

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Where to buy CBD in North Carolina

It is legal to purchase hemp-derived CBD online, as long as it contains less than 0.3% THC. The United States Postal Service (USPS) and private delivery services are permitted to mail hemp-derived CBD items to North Carolina addresses. There are a growing number of stores and retail outlets that carry hemp-derived CBD products in North Carolina, in addition to online retailers.

While medical hemp extract with 0.9% THC is legal in North Carolina, the state has made no provisions for legal sales, leaving patients and caregivers to seek products outside the state.

How to read CBD labels and packaging

CBD product labels contain important information for consumers, and those should be your most important resource when looking to buy CBD. To keep from running afoul of the FDA, CBD product labels should:

  • Not be false or misleading
  • Disclose identity statement (honest description of an organization/product), weight or volume of contents, name and place of business, distributor statement, material facts, warning or caution statements, and ingredients)
  • Properly display label information
  • Not violate the Poison Prevention Packaging Act of 1970, which requires products to be packaged in child-resistant packaging

Where CBD is legal, consumers should seek out only products with the following information on the label:

  • Amount of active CBD per serving
  • Supplement Fact Panel, including other ingredients
  • Net weight
  • Manufacturer or distributor name
  • Suggested use
  • Full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or isolate
  • Batch or date code

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One of the most important things to pay attention to is whether a CBD product is full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or isolate.

Full-spectrum means that the CBD has been extracted along with all other cannabinoids and terpenes, including whatever trace amounts of THC the plant may have produced. Consuming full-spectrum CBD may yield better results thanks to the entourage effect, a phenomenon in which the mixture of cannabinoids and terpenes work together to produce a more pleasant experience.

Broad-spectrum means that the product contains CBD and terpenes, but has undergone additional processes to strip out any THC.

Finally, isolate is a product that has gone through more intensive processing to remove all compounds except for CBD. Consuming isolate may produce different effects than full-spectrum or broad-spectrum CBD, as these products do not produce the entourage effect.

Marijuana, Hemp, and CBD – Frequently Asked Questions

The legality is marijuana is currently a hot topic and important question. Although North Carolina remains hesitant to reform, various states have implemented wide ranging legalization laws. Additionally, federal legalization was proposed in the US House for the first time recently and is thought to be a topic for review with the new incoming administration. Also, with the recent passage of federal and North Carolina law permitting the growth, processing, shipment, and sale of hemp and hemp derivatives, there are a growing number of questions related to the legality of cannabis. Our attorneys routinely represent individuals charged with criminal marijuana offenses as well as businesses engaged in the lawful sale of hemp products. The following FAQs are intended to help individuals understand the differences between marijuana and hemp and what is permissible and impermissible in North Carolina.

What are the different marijuana possession charges in North Carolina?

As a reminder, marijuana and hemp are both cannabis. However, marijuana and hemp are different varieties of the Cannabis Sativa L. plant. As a general matter and without getting into the specifics of testing methods, hemp must contain 0.3% or less total Tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”). Hemp is a legal agricultural commodity. Marijuana is an illegal controlled substance under both North Carolina and federal law.

Under North Carolina law, individuals can be charged with:

  • Misdemeanor possession of marijuana (less than 1.5 oz)
  • Felony Possession of Marijuana (1.5 oz – 10lbs; one-twentieth of an ounce of marijuana resin extract (hash, wax, shatter, vape, etc.) or any amount of synthetic THC)
  • Felony Possession with Intent to Sell and/or Deliver
  • Felony Trafficking of Marijuana (more than 10 pounds)

Marijuana remains an illegal federal controlled substance as well. Federal marijuana misdemeanor and felony prosecution applies for offenses committed on federal property, including the Capitol grounds and the mall within DC, as well as all national parks and military property nationwide, and other land under federal control. Federal marijuana laws also apply to offenses involving interstate commerce and importation from other countries.

How will I be punished for selling marijuana?

It depends whether you are charged in state or federal court and how much marijuana you are charged with selling. The following lists provide helpful guidance.

North Carolina Possession Sentences

        • Less than 0.5 oz: Class 3 misdemeanor subject to a fine up to $200, probation, or up to 20 days in jail/
        • 0.5 – 1.5 oz: Class 1 misdemeanor subject to a fine in the court’s discretion, probation, or up to 120 days in jail.
        • 1.5 oz – 10 lbs; one-twentieth of an ounce of marijuana resin extract or any amount of synthetic THC: Class I felony charge subject to a fine, probation, or up to 24 months in jail.

        North Carolina Marijuana Sale/Trafficking Sentences

              • 10-50 lbs: Class H felony punishable by 25-30 months in jail, and/or $5,000 fine.
              • 50-2,000 lbs: Class G felony punishable by 25-42 months, and/or $25,000 fine.
              • 2,000-10,000 lbs: Class F felony punishable by 70-84 months and/or $50,000 fine.
              • Over 10,000 lbs: Class D felony punishable by 175-219 months in jail, and/or $200,000 fine.
              • Selling within 1,000 feet of a school, child care or park: Class E felony punishable by up to 88 months in jail.
              • Selling to age 13 – 16 or someone who is pregnant: Class D felony punishable by up to 204 months in jail.
              • Selling to age 13 and under: Class C felony charge punishable by up to 231 months in jail.

              Federal Marijuana Possession Sentences

              Possession of marijuana is punishable by up to one year in jail and a minimum fine of $1,000 for a first conviction. For a second conviction, the penalties increase to a 15-day mandatory minimum sentence with a maximum of two years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500. Subsequent convictions carry a 90-day mandatory minimum sentence and a maximum of up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

              Federal Marijuana Distribution Sentences

              Distribution of a small amount of marijuana, without payment, is treated as possession. Manufacture or distribution of less than 50 plants or 50 kilograms of marijuana is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. For 50-99 plants or 50-99 kilograms the penalty increases to not more than 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million if an individual, $5 million if other than an individual for the first offense. Manufacture or distribution of 100-999 plants or 100-999 kilograms carries a penalty of 5 – 40 years in prison and a fine of $2-$5 Million. For 1000 plants or 1000 kilograms or more, the penalty increases to 10 years – life in prison and a fine of $4-$10 Million.

              Is hemp legal in North Carolina?

              Yes, subject to very specific regulations. In order to be legal, hemp and hemp products (including CBD) must contain less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which is the active ingredient in marijuana that creates the feeling of being high. Subject to certain administrative licensing and registration requirements through the North Carolina hemp pilot program and federal rules released by the USDA as well as the FDA, it is legal to cultivate, process, transport, sell, and possess hemp and hemp products.

              Is CBD legal in North Carolina?

              Yes. Cannabidiol (“CBD”) and other cannabinoids (excluding THC) derived from hemp are legal in North Carolina. Proponents of CBD products claim an array of health benefits including treatment for seizures, arthritis, pain-relief, and anxiety all without the impairing effect of THC. CBD is often infused in cosmetic products like lip balms and oils, added to foods (although CBD containing foods are not currently permissible per FDA guidelines) like honey and gummies, and is even contained in an FDA approved drug, Epidiolex, which is used to treat epilepsy.

              Are THC vapes legal in North Carolina?

              No. Vaping and cartridges or using other forms of marijuana resin extract (hash, wax, dabs, shatter, etc.) in other ways is illegal in North Carolina and is punishable as a felony for possession of more than one-twentieth of an ounce.

              If hemp is legal, will I be protected against employment drug testing?

              Yes. Or at least you should be under the Lawful Use of Lawful Products, N.C.G.S. § 95-28.2. This law prohibits employers from refusing to hire, terminating, or otherwise discrimination against a candidate or employee who engages or has engaged in the lawful use of lawful products off the premises of the employer during nonworking hours and the use does not adversely affect the employee’s job performance or the safety of other employees.

              Since hemp is now a legal substance under both federal and state law, employees who use hemp products during nonworking hours off the employer’s premises arguably fall under this law’s protection. Although hemp and CBD contain low levels of THC, the permissible trace amounts of THC may be enough to result in a positive drug test. The problem facing employers and employees is that a positive THC test is generally unable to distinguish between illegal marijuana use and legal use of hemp and hemp products.

              Can I grow hemp in my backyard?

              No. Under state and federal laws, industrial hemp growers must be issued a license to participate in the industrial hemp pilot program. The Industrial Hemp Commission is responsible for developing rules and regulations for participating in the program.

              How much CBD is legal?

              While NC hemp license holders are required to report acreage, weight, type, and storage locations to the Hemp Commission, there is not currently any state or federal prohibition on the amount of hemp or CBD an individual may possess as long as other licensing, registration, and other applicable administrative reporting requirements are met.

              How will police know if the hemp or CBD product is legal?

              Unfortunately, individuals using hemp and CBD products may find themselves facing criminal prosecution. Although the use and possession of hemp and CBD is not illegal, law enforcement officials sometimes have a hard time telling the difference between hemp and marijuana which is still illegal in all forms in North Carolina. The confusion is understandable given that hemp flower, which can be smoked by CBD users, looks and even smells like marijuana. Further, even though hemp and CBD products can contain only 0.3% or less total THC, these low levels can still test positive on a police officer’s field test. Hemp users should also be concerned that drug tests may return a positive result.

              Because legal hemp and CBD are very new to the market, police officers may not yet be trained on distinguishing the difference between hemp and marijuana. Until that happens we can reasonably expect to see a rise in the number of arrests and prosecution of individuals and businesses that use or sell hemp products. It is in your interest the have a criminal defense attorney experienced in this specific area of the law.

              Can my hemp products be seized by law enforcement?

              It is certainly possible. As discussed above, law enforcement has an understandably difficult time distinguishing between illegal marijuana and legal hemp and hemp derivative products. Our firm has seen situations were police have seized permissible hemp products mistakenly believe them to be contraband. In those situations, your best course of action is to get an attorney involved who understands the issues. There are a number of best practices our firm has helped clients implement to help prevent this type of situation from occurring. Among other preventative measures, it is recommended that you have on hand any product label, or certificate of analysis for any hemp or hemp-derived product when you are in possession of these items in public places to show a law enforcement officer if you are stopped or the product is confiscated.

              What if I was charged with a crime because of CBD in North Carolina?

              Contact a criminal defense attorney experienced with hemp and CBD issues. The attorneys at Dysart Willis Houchin & Hubbard are available 24/7 to talk to you about your case and how we can help.

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