Cannabis cultivation is illegal in the State of North Carolina, including Buncombe County, both for medical purposes and adult use as of May 2023. There is, however, a bill pending in the state’s House of Representatives proposing the legalization of medical cannabis and another proposing the legalization of adult-use cannabis.
The proposed North Carolina Compassionate Care Act, now still Senate Bill 3 (SB 3), is with the Committee on Rules, Calendar, and Operations of the House of Representatives as of May 2023 after passing the first reading in March 2023. The state’s Senate had passed it earlier in March 2023, voting 36-10. SB 3 is proposing that medical cannabis be legalized in the state, including the licensed cultivation, product manufacturing, and retail dispensing of medical cannabis to medical cannabis cardholders.
The proposed Cannabis Legalization & Regulation Act, now still House Bill 626 (HB 626), is also with the state’s House of Representatives Committee on Rules, Calendar, and Operations after passing the first reading in April 2023. HB 626 is proposing that adult-use cannabis be legalized in the state, including the licensed cultivation, product manufacturing, and retail dispensing of adult-use cannabis to those 21 years of age and older. Localities like counties and cities will, however, be allowed to enact their own ordinances to ban adult-use cannabis establishments in their territories.
SB 3 includes the creation of the Medical Cannabis Production Commission in the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS). Its function will be the statewide regulation and licensing of medical cannabis. It shall issue only one type of license – the medical cannabis supplier licensee shall be able to cultivate cannabis crops, manufacture products from the cannabis crops, and operate medical cannabis centers to dispense the medical cannabis and medical cannabis products it produces only to medical cannabis cardholders. All medical cannabis supplier facilities must be secured to prevent unauthorized persons and thieves from entering.
HB 626 assigns the authority to license adult-use cannabis facilities to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety (NCDPS). For the cultivation in Buncombe County of adult-use cannabis, an NCDPS adult-use cannabis cultivation facility license will have to be applied for. The licensee will be allowed to grow cannabis crops indoors and outdoors.
Persons 21 years of age and older will be allowed by HB 626 to cultivate cannabis at home, with a cap of six plants. They must be the homeowner or have the homeowner’s consent for cannabis home cultivation. Cannabis home growers must ensure that the cultivation space is locked to prevent entry by minors and is not visible to the public.
Cannabis product manufacturing is illegal in the State of North Carolina, including Buncombe County, whether for medical purposes or adult use as of May 2023.
With SB 3, medical cannabis product manufacturing in Buncombe County will require the acquisition of a medical cannabis supplier license from the NCDHHS.
With HB 626, adult-use cannabis product manufacturing in Buncombe County will require the acquisition of an adult-use cannabis product manufacturing facility license from the NCDPS.
Cannabis and cannabis product retail selling is illegal in the State of North Carolina, including Buncombe County, for both medical purposes and adult use as of May 2023.
With SB 3, the retail selling in Buncombe County of medical cannabis, medical cannabis products, and medical cannabis equipment only to medical cannabis cardholders through a medical cannabis center will require the medical cannabis supplier license obtained from the NCDHHS. The Medical Cannabis Registry Database to be set up online shall be used by licensed medical cannabis centers to validate the purchasers’ medical cannabis cards.
In addition to medical cannabis, the medical cannabis products allowed for sale under SB 3 include cannabis-infused edible goods, tinctures, and salves, among others. SB 3, however, disallows the selling of medical cannabis for inhalation intended for registered patients who are not yet aged 18.
SB 3 limits the sale of medical cannabis to a 30-day supply for every registered patient every 30-day period. This will depend on the medical cannabis dose and method of delivery on the patient’s registry certification online.
With HB 626, the retail selling in Buncombe County of adult-use cannabis and adult-use cannabis products only to persons 21 years of age and older will require an adult-use cannabis retail store license from the NCDPS. The age and identity of the consumer must be verified by the licensed adult-use cannabis retail store by asking for a valid document issued by a local or foreign government.
In addition to adult-use cannabis, the adult-use cannabis products allowed for sale under HB 626 include cannabis-infused edible goods, extracts, tinctures, concentrates, and topicals, among others. The purchase limit for every qualified consumer is the same as the possession limit set by HB 626 as the following:
2 ounces of cannabis
15 grams of cannabis concentrate
2,000 milligrams of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content in cannabis products
Medical and adult-use cannabis and cannabis product delivery is illegal in the State of North Carolina, including Buncombe County, as of May 2023.
With SB 3, medical cannabis supplier licensees of the NCDHHS in Buncombe County will be able to legally deliver to medical cannabis cardholders the medical cannabis and medical cannabis products they purchase.
With HB 626, an adult-use cannabis delivery service license must be obtained from the NCDPS to be allowed to deliver to people who are 21 years old and older the adult-use cannabis and adult-use cannabis products they purchase from licensed adult-use cannabis retail stores in Buncombe County. Cities or counties that ban adult-use cannabis establishments in their territories must allow licensed deliveries to their residents of adult-use cannabis and adult-use cannabis products purchased from licensed adult-use cannabis retail stores in other cities or counties. Cities and counties that ban adult-use cannabis establishments in their territories must also allow licensed adult-use cannabis deliveries from and to other cities or counties to pass through their areas.
There is no medical cannabis card issued by the State of North Carolina that residents of Buncombe County can get since medical cannabis is illegal in the state as of May 2023.
The closes thing to a medical cannabis card is the NCDHHS Caregiver Registration letter of the state’s Epilepsy Alternative Treatment Act program. The program is limited to patients referred by a state-licensed neurologist after being diagnosed to be suffering from intractable epilepsy that does not respond to other courses of treatment. The program allows registered patients to be treated with cannabis-derived hemp extracts containing THC that is lower than 0.9% and cannabidiol (CBD) that is not lower than 5% based on weight. These hemp extracts are not legally available for sale in the state and must be purchased elsewhere.
The registered patient is required to have a caregiver who must purchase and carry the hemp extracts, always with the NCDHHS Caregiver Registration letter. The caregiver must send the printed and completed caregiver registration application with a copy of the caregiver’s valid government ID to:
NC Epilepsy Alternative Treatment Registration
3008 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699
The Caregiver Registration letter will be sent through the post by the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services of the NCDHHS. For inquiries, the following may be contacted:
North Carolina Drug Control Unit
Office hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday
With SB 3, a medical cannabis card may be acquired by Buncombe County residents by applying to be included in Medical Cannabis Registry Database. An applicant must be certified by a qualified physician to be suffering from one of the following illnesses:
Terminal illness with fewer than six months of life expectancy
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Illness resulting in hospice care
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
Sickle cell anemia
Persistent or severe nausea in patients who are bedridden or medically homebound
A medical condition that the Compassionate Use Advisory Board adds
To be qualified by SB 3, a physician will be required to undergo a preliminary 10-hour study on medical cannabis prescription with a supplementary three-hour study yearly. The North Carolina Medical Board or the NCDHHS will ensure compliance.
SB 3 requires minors to have a caregiver. Adult registered patients will also be allowed to appoint caregivers. A maximum of two caregivers will be permitted for every patient. Registration will be required for patients and caregivers alike. They will receive their medical cannabis card in about 14 days after approval and it will have a 12-month validity.
As of May 2023, cannabis for both medical and adult use is illegal in Buncombe County and the rest of the State of North Carolina. The Epilepsy Alternative Therapy Act did not legalize the selling of cannabis-based hemp extract in the state, hence it has not impacted the economy either.
With SB 3, the NCDHHS will receive monthly from every licensed medical cannabis supplier a fee of 10% of the gross sales of medical cannabis and medical cannabis products.
With HB 626, 30% of the price of the purchased adult-use cannabis or adult-use cannabis product will be charged as a cannabis excise tax to the purchaser 21 years of age and older. Furthermore, 2% of the price of the purchased adult-use cannabis or adult-use cannabis product may be charged to the qualified purchaser as a cannabis local option tax by the municipality where the purchase is made. These taxes will not be charged to medical cannabis cardholders.
Medical cannabis and adult-use cannabis are both illegal in Buncombe County as of May 2023.
For future reference, the latest data submitted by the Buncombe County Sheriff's Office to the FBI’s Crime Explorer page shows that in 2021, there were five marijuana offense arrests, all for possession. There were 175 DUI arrests in that year.