Clock ticking to keep hemp legal in North Carolina

Clock ticking to keep hemp legal in North Carolina



Time is running out for North Carolina lawmakers to extend hemp’s legal status in the state. A 2015 bill that created the state’s Hemp Pilot Program and exempted hemp from the state's list of controlled substances sunsets at the end of June.


The agricultural side isn’t a problem, as hemp growers are now overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. However, if new legislation doesn’t permanently remove hemp from the controlled substances list, hemp plants, CBD and other hemp products would technically be illegal in the state beginning July 1.


Lawmakers now have days to update the law. But, as the Asheville Citizen Times reports, there appears to be a standoff in the General Assembly over whose bill to pass, the House’s or the Senate’s.


Lawmakers now have days to permanently update the law. But, as the Asheville Citizen Times reports, there appears to be a standoff in the General Assembly over whose bill to pass, the House’s or the Senate’s.

“Our frustration continues as the General Assembly cannot get this simple legislative fix done without using the hemp industry as a political football,” Blake Butler, an Asheville resident and executive director of the Southeast Hemp Association, told the Citizen Times.


In May, the state Senate included language to legalize hemp within its larger proposal for the 2022 Farm Act (Senate Bill 792).

But in June the House proposed its own bill permanently legalizing hemp, then cut the hemp measure from the Senate’s Farm Bill, leaving its bill as the only option.

Senators weren’t happy about the change, reported the Raleigh-area news outlet WRAL.


“I regret that you all chose to pull hemp out of this bill,” said Sen. Brent Jackson (R), the Senate Agriculture chair and the bill’s author, June 22 during a House agriculture committee meeting. “You know, I'm not being critical, but we started it in the Senate in 2019. Took us 18 months to get the farm bill through, and I was hoping we'd be able to finish it this year because we know we have a deadline looming.”


So why did the House do it? The chair of the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Jimmy Dixon (R), told reporters House Republicans didn’t want the potentially controversial hemp provision in the Farm Bill, according to the North Carolina Tribune.

The chair of the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Jimmy Dixon (R), told reporters House Republicans didn’t want the potentially controversial hemp provision in the Farm Bill.

The Senate could still pass the House’s hemp bill before the June 30 sunset. But the process thus far “has unnerved many whose livelihoods rely on the industry,” wrote Citizen Times reporter Brian Gordon.

House Representative John Ager (D) told the Citizen Times that House Agriculture Committee Chair Dixon and Senate Agriculture Chair Jackson had assured him the General Assembly would act before the deadline.


If the deadline does pass state legislators could still make hemp legal again, but would need to act quickly to do so this year.