Is CBD Oil Legal In North Carolina?
North Carolina CBD Laws
Is CBD oil legal in North Carolina? It’s not as easy a question to answer as it should be. The answer depends on a variety of factors such as how it was produced, how old you are, and whether or not you have epilepsy, and whether or not you’ve tried other treatments first.
However, due to recent developments in the state that might have already changed by the time you’re reading this article. Let’s dive right in and sort this all out.
Both hemp CBD oil and marijuana-derived CBD oil are legal in North Carolina. However, the marijuana version is only legal for patients with intractable epilepsy. Furthermore, the state limits the amount of THC in these oils to a mere 0.9% THC. In order to be legally grown in North Carolina (and most of the U.S.) hemp must contain less than 0.3% THC. What that means is that there’s less than 0.6% difference in the THC levels of hemp-derived CBD oil and CBD oil produced from marijuana.
North Carolina CBD Laws
Hemp CBD vs. Marijuana CBD
What Conditions Does CBD Help
North Carolina’s Marijuana Laws
Where to Buy CBD In NC
Hemp CBD vs. Marijuana CBD
The first distinction that needs to be made is that there are two distinct types of CBD oil. One is made from marijuana, and one is made from hemp. Marijuana, as you are probably aware, contains a compound known as THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol) which causes users to feel euphoric, easily amused, and hungry. Hemp contains miniscule amounts of THC. As the saying goes, it (hemp) wouldn’t get a fly high.
Interestingly, something many people don’t realize is that hemp CBD is actually made from a strain of marijuana that’s low in THC anyway. You see, hemp and marijuana are both strains of the cannabis plant. Hemp, the kind that’s been used by the human race for eons for its fibers and seeds, is often referred to as industrial hemp. However, the hemp that’s used to produce CBD oil is not a strain of industrial hemp. It’s actually a strain of marijuana that has had the THC (mostly) bred out of it. Industrial hemp is extremely low in cannabinoids such as CBD and THC and is not suitable for producing medicine.
Now there’s a really big Catch 22 here. Although patients can legally possess this slightly-more-THC-rich version of CBD oil, they can’t legally purchase it. And it can’t be legally produced within the state. So, frankly, rather than taking the risk of breaking the law for a mere 0.6% difference in THC, North Carolina’s epilepsy patients might as well stick with hemp CBD oil.
CBD oil produced from hemp is available in shops throughout the state. Although you can’t walk into CVS or Walmart and buy CBD oil yet, it can oftentimes be found in smoke and vape shops as well as some health foods shops especially in cities such as Ashville, Charlotte, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Fayetteville, and Wilmington. [UPDATE: On March 21, 2019, CVS announced plans to sell CBD in 800 stores in states where it is legal.]
Is CBD Isolate Legal in North Carolina?
CBD is just one of scores of active compounds found in hemp extracts and full-spectrum CBD oils. The term full-spectrum refers to the fact that the oil contains the original spectrum of cannabinoids and other active compounds known as terpenes which are found in the raw extract. These compounds all work together to increase the overall effect. This synergy of ingredients is known as the entourage effect. (It’s a metaphor. An entourage is a group of people that travel and work together.)
However, each of these ingredients can be isolated from the raw extract because they all turn to a vapor at different temperatures. CBD oil is made by filtering raw hemp extract to remove unwanted compounds such as chlorophyll and waxes. Then the concentrated oil can be distilled to produce 99.9% pure CBD isolate.
CBD isolate is flavorless and odorless making it ideal for use in foods and cosmetics. But is CBD isolate legal in North Carolina? Interestingly this product falls into what is known as a policy gap. Although the state really has no particular policy towards CBD isolate (yet), according to the federal government, CBS is now a schedule V controlled substance, recently down from Schedule I.
Last year, the Food and Drug Administration approved a drug called Epidiolex for the treatment of epilepsy. The down-scheduling of CBD isolate to Schedule V is a direct result of that approval. Schedule V drugs include many over the counter medications such as cough syrup and pain relievers. Schedule I is reserved for drugs that supposedly have no medicinal use and are highly addictive.
Although CBD is approved as a medicine, it has not been approved as a food and cosmetics additive because it has not yet received GRAS status (generally regarded as safe). Because of this, the FDA prohibits the use of CBD in edible products. Technically, if you want pure CBD you need to have a particular form of epilepsy. And if you are selling CBD-infused edibles, you’re breaking FDA rules.
However, that doesn’t stop shops all across North Carolina and the country from selling these products. CBD-infused edibles, vape oils, tinctures, pills, capsules, creams, and others are widely sold across the country by online shops. These products are so prevalent that the FDA simply does not have the resources to regulate their spread.
North Carolina’s High-CBD, Low-THC Medical Laws
As we mentioned, North Carolina’s medical cannabis law, titled the Epilepsy Alternative Treatment Act, is extremely limited. The program was launched in June 2014 with the passing of House Bill (HB) 1220. It was then amended in July 2015 by HB 766, the Epilepsy Alternative Treatment Act which expanded access beyond pilot study patients and eliminated a registration card requirement, among other changes. These laws provide legal protection only for the use of “hemp extract” to treat epilepsy. (Note that if the product does contain more than 0.3% THC, it’s not technically hemp, it’s marijuana.)
For an individual to receive legal protection, they must meet all three of these criteria: (A) be diagnosed with epilepsy, (B) be under the care of a state-certified neurologist, and (C) have tried three or more traditional treatment options that have failed.
Dried cannabis flowers, even those with less than 0.9% THC, are not legal in the state. Nor are cannabinoid-infused edibles. Patients and their caregivers are only allowed to possess CBD oils which contain at least 5% CBD but not more than 0.9% THC — or about a 5 to 1 ratio of CBD to THC. Although a CBD oil with under 1% THC is unlikely to get you high, it slightly increases your chances of failing a drug test or roadside sobriety test.
North Carolina’s so-called medical marijuana laws provide no mechanism for cultivation or dispensing of cannabis oils, such as those found in most other states with regulated medical marijuana programs.
The current law, which automatically expires on July 1, 2021 if it is not renewed or replaced, is overseen by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
Aside from epilepsy, CBD oil is being widely used to treat a variety of other conditions including anxiety and depression, PTSD, sleep disorders, ALS and Parkinson’s, ADHD, Crohn’s disease and much more. Although patients with these conditions are not allowed to possess the slightly stronger version of CBD oil, they can easily purchase hemp-derived CBD oil in local shops and online. More details below.
What Conditions Do CBD Oils, Gummies and Products Work For?
Scientific studies strongly suggest that CBD oil provides the following benefits:
CBD oil is currently being used by many people as an alternative medicine to help relieve a variety of conditions such as these:
North Carolina’s Marijuana Laws
Although marijuana is not exactly “legal” in North Carolina, it has been decriminalized to some extent. And earlier, we mentioned that the situation may have changed by the time you read this. Prospects look good that the state will further relax it’s marijuana laws in 2019.
Lawmakers in the North Carolina General Assembly have been considering reforms to the state’s marijuana laws, including proposal for a local legalization option. N.C. Rep. Kelly Alexander recently told the press, “North Carolina should be moving to change these draconian laws because it was evidenced that medical marijuana helped to alleviate pain and suffering in a number of conditions, and in the period of time that I’ve been here in the legislature, more and more evidence comes out that that’s the case.”
North Carolinians are also slowly warming up to the idea of a full blown marijuana market in the state. While a 2017 Elon University poll showed that almost 80 percent of North Carolina voters support full legalization of marijuana for medical purposes, only 45 percent said they support legalization for recreational use. However, a more recent poll showed that 63% of Republicans, 78% of Independents and 84% of Democrats are in favor of a medical marijuana market and 72% are in favor of legalizing marijuana altogether.
One of the proposals currently being considered is interesting in that, rather than creating a statewide market, it would give towns, cities, and counties the right to pass their own legalization measures. The state’s liquor laws follow a similar strategy. A municipality may enact its own cannabis legislation either by a vote of the town council, or the county commission, or via a referendum resulting from a petition from the citizens.
Alexander says that lawmakers will be seeking input from the public on the matter. He also implied that they could use a push, stating to the press, “You’ve got to reach out and let your members of the House and Senate know that it’s time to change our marijuana laws, and that you would like them to support the legislation that is being introduced. …do whatever is necessary to let them know that you as voting citizens want the status quo to change.”
Not everyone is in favor of the move. North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper who has been in office since 2017, does not believe the time is right and has threatened to veto marijuana legislation. However, numerous vetoes by the governor have already been overturned by the legislature, so there is hope that a measure could be passed even if it is vetoed.
In the meantime, unlike with the feds, marijuana is a Schedule VI substance under North Carolina’s Controlled Substances Act rather than Schedule I. The law calls for a maximum $200 fine for possession of less than one-half ounce. One of the proposals in the works could raise that limit to four ounces. Currently being caught with marijuana over ten pounds starts at a Class H felony, punishable by 25-30 months in prison and a $5000 fine.
Where to Buy CBD In North Carolina
As we mentioned, under North Carolina’s medical marijuana program there simply is no legal way to purchase marijuana-derived CBD oil at this time. That may change by the time you read this. However, in the meantime, the difference in THC levels is so miniscule that, until the laws loosen up a bit, you’re most likely better off sticking with hemp CBD oil and CBD-infused products.
The rules are much more liberal for hemp products, however, because the FDA has not yet approved the use of CBD as a food additive, you can’t walk into 7 Eleven, CVS, or Walmart and pick up a bottle — yet. [UPDATE: On March 21, 2019, CVS announced plans to sell CBD in 800 stores in states where it is legal.] That, also, may change very soon considering that the federal government has finally legalized hemp and CBD oil on a national level. The FDA is expected to catch up soon.
There are quite a few local shops in North Carolina that sell CBD oil. Also, regardless of FDA rules against using CBD as an additive, many shops also sell vape oils and edibles anyway, along with the usual CBD oil drops and capsules.
Where to Buy CBD Online
Another way to get your hands on some hemp-derived CBD products is to purchase them online. It’s fast. It’s easy. And you can have them delivered right to your doorstep, saving yourself a trip.
And for those with furry friends, many local and online shops are now selling CBD oil products formulated especially for dogs and cats and other pets.
- SafeAccessNow.org: North Carolina Medical Marijuana Laws and Regulations
- Daily Tarheel: North Carolina To Consider Legalizing Marijuana Locally In 2019
- WCNC: Charlotte politician weighs in on debate for marijuana legalization in the Carolinas
- NORML: North Carolina Laws & Penalties
- NC Criminal Law: The Legality of CBD: Caveat Emptor