medical cannabis nc

NC Marijuana Qualification

Updated on May 11, 2020. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer

North Carolina Medical Marijuana Qualifications

Who Qualifies for Medicinal Marijuana in North Carolina

The medical marijuana program in North Carolina only recently started. Before 2014, there was no provision for the medical use of cannabis products in the state. Since most state medical marijuana programs are restricted to residents, patients living in North Carolina who suffer from debilitating conditions had no legal source of marijuana therapy.

North Carolina’s medical marijuana program is expanding. From 2014 to 2015 access for patients was increased, and more doctors were allowed to make recommendations. A new medical marijuana bill introduced by state lawmakers in 2017 would greatly expand the program to treat a list of conditions and make marijuana accessible to more patients. House Bill 185, the North Carolina Medical Cannabis Act, would establish a medical marijuana program where patients could register for identification cards.

History of Medical Marijuana in North Carolina

In 2014, North Carolina began to recognize the benefits of marijuana for treating seizure disorders by passing a very limited medical marijuana law. Known as the Hope 4 Haley and Friends Act, this initial legislation allowed doctors affiliated with the neurology departments at Wake Forest University, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University and East Carolina University to recommend cannabis for their patients.

This limited study in the medical benefits of marijuana was applied only to seizure disorders. The marijuana recommended was predominantly CBD, with only trace amounts of THC allowed. Patients in this program were issued a medical marijuana card and allowed to possess the cannabis products that were recommended by their neurologist.

Doctors making recommendations of marijuana therapy had to be registered with the study at one of these four universities. Their patients’ data was tracked and used to provide medical evidence that a state marijuana program is warranted. Neurologists dispensed the hemp oil used in this program that could only contain 0.3 percent THC and had to be at least 10% CBD.

The following year, the governor signed a new law expanding the use of marijuana for medical purposes. This new medical marijuana program is still restrictive by many standards, and it will sunset in 2021.

Current NC Medical Marijuana Qualifications

The North Carolina Epilepsy Alternative Treatment Act enacted in August 2016 is the marijuana state law currently in effect. It stipulates provisions for board-certified neurologists to recommend marijuana treatment even if they are not affiliated with the four universities originally identified. Neurologists can be associated with any state-licensed hospital.

There are no age restrictions on marijuana patients in North Carolina, but only those diagnosed with epilepsy can qualify for medical marijuana therapy. Among epilepsy sufferers, only the most severe cases can be treated with cannabis, and the treatment must be recommended by a neurologist.

The content of the cannabis extracts used for treating patients in North Carolina is restricted to 0.9% THC. The minimum amount of CBD in the treatment is 5%. CBD is the cannabinoid most effective at reducing seizures. The current medical marijuana program in North Carolina is focused on this one positive outcome that cannabis can provide.

How to Apply for Medical Marijuana in NC

If you are looking for relief from intractable epilepsy that has not responded, or no longer responds, to conventional pharmacology, medical marijuana may be the right treatment for you. To begin the application process for your North Carolina medical marijuana card, search for a marijuana doctor in North Carolina.

Only neurologists are able to recommend medical marijuana treatments. We maintain a database of doctors who are willing to recommend marijuana for patients who qualify. Here is more information about getting your North Carolina medical marijuana card.

Learn more about qualifying for medical marijuana in North Carolina. Get info on qualifying conditions and find local doctors at Marijuana Doctors.

Most states now have legal medical marijuana, but N.C. lags behind

Hempstar Farms in Raleigh is on track to produce a total of 76 acres of hemp in 2020. (Photo courtesy Native Ceuticals, a Mooresville-based company that sources from this farm.)

Marijuana won big this election, gaining legal ground in five states, but it remains illegal in North Carolina. That’s not expected to change with the state’s incoming legislature.

Why it matters: Coronavirus has left deep scars on our economy, and proponents of legal marijuana say it could be the jump-start North Carolina needs. Especially for the state’s many tobacco farmers, some of whom have already leaned into the rising hemp industry. In 420-friendly states like Colorado and Washington, marijuana sales has generated hundreds of millions in tax revenue and employed tens of thousands.

Opponents, however, cite a lack of research on the drug’s effects and potential risk factors.

Public opinion: 72.5 percent of N.C. residents support legal marijuana for medical purposes, according to a recent poll. Unlike other states, legalization can’t be put to a public vote; it’s up to the state legislature. Still, constituents play an important role in any path forward through their vote and their voice.

Where legalization stands: Federally, marijuana is illegal, but a majority of states have now legalized it for medical or recreational use, or both.

  • Marijuana possession is decriminalized in N.C. Possessing half an ounce or less could result in a $200 fine, but more could lead to jail time and a hefty fine. Local municipalities have discretion over fines and incarceration, meaning punishment varies from person to person. An Observer investigation in 2016 found that Black Charlotteans are more likely to be arrested than white Charlotteans, though consumption is generally the same.
  • N.C.’s Farm Act left out hemp regulation from its final version in June, keeping the budding business — smokable hemp in particular — in a legal gray area. Industrial hemp, often used for rope, paper, and CBD, remains in its “pilot” stage.
  • The path to legalization could come faster via the federal government than the state legislature, NC NORML executive director Katrina Ramquist Wesson says. “We’re not waiting on federal legalization, but we’re obviously hoping it happens.”

Meanwhile, CBD business is gaining momentum. North Carolina’s climate is prime for growing hemp, and a number of tobacco farmers have made the shift, filling orders for new and fast-growing CBD companies based locally. The industry, which has tapped into the mainstream wellness market, is predicted to hit $24 billion by 2023 nationwide.

And if or when marijuana is legalized, it’s not a hard transition for farmers. That could mean big money for the farmers, locally-based CBD companies like Native Ceuticals, and local and state economies as a whole.

Crop from Hempstar Farms in Raleigh, the hemp farm for Mooresville-based Native Ceuticals. (Photo courtesy)

But will it happen? One of the most vocal advocates for the legalization of marijuana is Jenna Wadsworth, who lost her race to become N.C.’s next commissioner of agriculture to incumbent Steve Troxler, who opposes legalization. For proponents of legal marijuana — both for social justice and economic reasons — this was a setback.

Wesson, however, thinks NC NORML, the state wing of the national marijuana reform organization, has never been better positioned to fight for legalization.

“We have not been this organized in North Carolina before,” she says. “Do we think it’s going to be this session? Doubtful but … you never know when the little window is going to crack open.”

Most states now have legal medical marijuana, but N.C. lags behind Hempstar Farms in Raleigh is on track to produce a total of 76 acres of hemp in 2020. (Photo courtesy Native Ceuticals, a