As of May 2023, it is illegal to cultivate cannabis in Orange County whether for medical or adult use. There are, however, pending bills in the State of North Carolina’s legislature proposing the legalization of both.
Senate Bill 3 (SB 3), to be titled the North Carolina Compassionate Care Act if enacted, passed with a 36-10 vote in the North Carolina Senate on March 1, 2023. It proposes the legalization of licensed medical cannabis cultivation, medical cannabis product manufacturing, and medical cannabis retail selling to medical cannabis cardholders in the state. It was sent to the North Carolina House of Representatives where it passed its first reading on March 6, 2023, and is pending with the House Committee on Rules, Calendar, and Operations as of May 2023.
House Bill 626 (HB 626) is to be titled the Cannabis Legalization & Regulation Act if enacted. In the North Carolina House of Representatives, it passed its first reading on April 18, 2023, and is also pending with the House Committee on Rules, Calendar, and Operations as of May 2023. It proposes the legalization of licensed adult-use cannabis cultivation, adult-use cannabis product manufacturing, and retail selling of adult-use cannabis and adult-use cannabis products to persons aged 21 and above across the state. It, however, allows a locality such as a county or a city to enact an ordinance banning adult-use cannabis facilities within its jurisdiction.
Under SB 3, a Medical Cannabis Production Commission shall be created within the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) to regulate and license medical cannabis statewide. The medical cannabis supplier license shall be the only license issued that covers the cultivation of medical cannabis, manufacturing of medical cannabis products, and retail selling of medical cannabis and medical cannabis products to medical cannabis cardholders in medical cannabis centers. All operations will only be allowed in facilities that are secure against unauthorized entry and theft.
Under HB 626, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety (NCDPS) will be the licensing authority for adult-use cannabis facilities. An adult-use cannabis cultivation facility license from the NCDPS will be required for a business to cultivate adult-use cannabis in Orange County. Both indoor and outdoor cultivation of cannabis crops will be allowed.
HB 626 will also allow the growing of up to six cannabis plants at home by persons aged 21 and older. If they do not own the residence, the owner must allow them to do so. The cannabis growing area must be locked against unauthorized entry and hidden from the sight of the public.
As of May 2023, it is illegal to manufacture cannabis products in Orange County both for medical or adult use.
If SB 3 becomes law, an NCDHHS medical cannabis supplier license will also be required to be able to legally manufacture medical cannabis products in Orange County.
If HB 626 becomes law, an NCDPS adult-use cannabis product manufacturing facility license will be required to be able to legally process adult-use cannabis products in Orange County.
As of May 2023, it is illegal to sell cannabis or cannabis products by retail in Orange County for medical or adult use.
If SB 3 becomes law, an NCDHHS medical cannabis supplier license will likewise be required to be able to legally sell medical cannabis and medical cannabis products exclusively to medical cannabis cardholders in a medical cannabis center in Orange County. Medical cannabis cards shall be checked on the online Medical Cannabis Registry Database.
SB 3 states that licensed medical cannabis centers shall be allowed to sell medical cannabis, medical cannabis products, and medical cannabis paraphernalia. Medical cannabis products include tinctures, salves, edible goods, and other cannabis-infused items. However, SB 3 will only allow the sale of medical cannabis that is not inhaled to caregivers of registered patients younger than 18 years old.
SB 3 also states that licensed medical cannabis centers shall only dispense to each patient a 30-day supply of medical cannabis or medical cannabis products every 30 days, based on the dosage and delivery method indicated on the patient’s certification on the online registry.
If HB 626 becomes law, an NCDPS adult-use cannabis retail store license will be required to be able to legally sell adult-use cannabis and adult-use cannabis products only to consumers aged 21 and older in Orange County. Adult-use cannabis products include cannabis extract, concentrate, tinctures, edible goods, ointments, and others. The licensed adult-use cannabis retail store personnel must first verify the consumer’s age to be 21 or older through a valid document issued by a tribal, state, federal, or foreign government. The licensed adult-use cannabis retail store shall ensure that the purchase does not exceed the possession limit of the Bill, as follows:
Cannabis: 2 ounces
Cannabis concentrate: 15 grams
Cannabis products: 2,000 milligrams of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
As of May 2023, it is illegal to deliver cannabis or cannabis products in Orange County for medical or adult use.
If SB 3 becomes law, the delivery of medical cannabis and medical cannabis products by holders of the NCDHHS medical cannabis supplier license solely to medical cannabis cardholders in Orange County will be allowed.
If HB 626 becomes law, an NCDPS adult-use cannabis delivery service license will be required to be able to legally deliver adult-use cannabis and adult-use cannabis products only to consumers aged 21 and older in Orange County.
HB 626 states that even counties or cities that prohibit adult-use cannabis facilities within their jurisdictions must allow adult-use cannabis deliveries to their residents, and adult-use cannabis deliveries to pass through on the way to other localities.
Orange County residents cannot apply for a medical cannabis card since even medical cannabis is still illegal in the State of North Carolina as of May 2023.
However, there is an NCDHHS Caregiver Registration letter that allows the caregiver of an epilepsy patient registered under the North Carolina Epilepsy Alternative Treatment Act program to purchase cannabis-derived hemp extracts from another state for the patient. The hemp extract’s THC content must be below 0.9% and its cannabidiol (CBD) content must be not less than 5%, both according to weight.
A state-licensed neurologist must refer the patient to the program after a diagnosis of intractable epilepsy that has not responded to other treatments. A caregiver must be designated and the caregiver registration application must be printed, filled up, and sent with a valid state ID, driver’s license, or military ID to:
NC Epilepsy Alternative Treatment Registration
3008 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699
The NCDHHS Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services will mail the Caregiver Registration letter which must be carried by the caregiver whenever carrying hemp extract. More information may be requested from:
North Carolina Drug Control Unit
Office hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday
If SB 3 becomes law, Orange County residents will be allowed to apply for a medical cannabis card and be listed in the Medical Cannabis Registry Database if a qualified physician certifies that they are diagnosed with one of the following conditions:
Terminal illness with fewer than six months of life expectancy
Illness resulting in hospice care
Persistent or severe nausea in patients who are bedridden or medically homebound
Sickle cell anemia
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
Post-traumatic stress disorder
An added medical condition by the Compassionate Use Advisory Board
The physician must pass a 10-hour medical cannabis prescription course and a three-hour annual supplementary course, with compliance to be checked by the North Carolina Medical Board or the NCDHHS.
Minors will require a caregiver and adult patients will be allowed to name up to two caregivers, as well. Patients and caregivers will be required to register. Medical marijuana cards will have a one-year validity period.
Orange County has not benefited from medical or adult-use cannabis since neither has been legalized in the State of North Carolina as of May 2013. The cannabis-based hemp extract used under the Epilepsy Alternative Therapy Act is not available for sale within the state.
If SB 3 becomes law, each licensed medical cannabis supplier will be required to pay the NCDHHS a monthly fee equivalent to 10% of its gross medical cannabis and medical cannabis product sales.
If HB 626 becomes law, a consumer aged 21 and older will be subject to a cannabis excise tax of 30% of the price of every adult-use cannabis or adult-use cannabis product purchased. In addition, a municipality may charge a consumer aged 21 and older a cannabis local option tax equivalent to 2% of every adult-use cannabis or adult-use cannabis product purchased in the municipality. Medical cannabis cardholders will be exempted from these taxes.
Cannabis for both medical and adult use is illegal in Orange County and the entire State of North Carolina as of May 2023.
As a reference for any future legalization, the latest data submitted by the Orange County Sheriff's Office to the FBI’s Crime Explorer page shows that in 2021, there were eight marijuana offense arrests, comprised of six arrests for possession and two arrests for sales or manufacturing.
There were 55 DUI arrests in the same year.