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A cannabis worker scoops up two handfuls of trimmed cannabis product.

Sarah Climaco

According to a report by the Winston-Salem Journal, a Forsyth County, North Carolina legislator has sponsored a state Senate bill that would legalize the possession of up to four ounces of cannabis flower or plant material (for personal use) before one could be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor. The language of the bill redefines less than four ounces of cannabis as explicitly not a controlled substance.

The bill also includes the possibility of submitting a petition to the Superior Court to potentially expunge previous possession convictions that would no longer be considered illegal under the proposed law. The sponsor of the bill, Sen. Paul Lowe (D-Forsyth) said he introduced the bill in an effort to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cannabis.

Currently, possessing a half-ounce or less of cannabis is a Class 3 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 20 days in jail. The highest class of misdemeanor, Class 1, is punishable by up to 120 days in jail. Under current laws, possession of one and a half ounces or more of cannabis is a Class 1 felony, punishable by up to five months in jail. The proposed bill would raise the lower limit for a class 1 felony to one pound of cannabis or more before being charged with a Class 1 felony.

The district attorney for Forsyth County, Jim O’Neill, takes issue with the amounts set by the new bill. O’Neill said he considers Lowe a respected friend but that four ounces of cannabis as an amount for personal use is absurd. It is unlikely the bill will make it out of committee. The North Carolina General Assembly is Republican controlled and currently focused on passing a non-amended state budget by the end of the session, expected the July 4th weekend. Medical marijuana bills introduced in April 2017 also did not leave committee.

North Carolina is one of 20 states without medical or recreational cannabis laws.

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