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CJ Reports: Arguments over smokable hemp cloud debate over farm legislation

Kari Travis wrote an article this week in Carolina Journal on the current debate over smokable hemp in the General Assembly. According to Travis:

A House committee on July 17 moved to ban smokable hemp flowers via Senate Bill 352, “Amend NC Controlled Substances Act.”

While hemp and marijuana are the same plant, they are different in that hemp contains far less of the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) than marijuana. This means hemp will not get you high – even smokable hemp. That is why Sen. Brent Jackson’s Senate Bill 315, “North Carolina Farm Act of 2019,” (a bill both clarifying hemp as separate from marijuana and ensuring its legal possession) did not ban smokable hemp.

However, according to Travis, the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) had concerns about this:

The hemp plant looks just like marijuana, making it impossible for law enforcers to tell the difference between what’s legal, and what’s not. 

No good field test exists to help police check THC levels, the SBI said

Rep. Jimmy Dixon had similar concerns:

“I feel that some will use legal hemp as a stepping stone to legalize marijuana,” Dixon told Carolina Journal in a July 17 email, just hours before he proposed the ban. “Some marijuana users are already cloaking their illegal activity using the hemp loophole.”

However, according to Blake Butler, executive director of the N.C. Industrial Hemp Commission, outlawing smokable hemp could cause more confusion in law enforcement, not less:

Criminalization would complicate things for law enforcers, since hemp flowers are also used to make legal CBD extracts and tinctures. Police could pull over a truckload of hemp bound for a CBD manufacturer and classify it as “smokable,” Butler said. 

Sen. Brent Jackson takes serious issue with the House’s provision to ban smokable hemp as well:

“The House has altered the Farm Act of 2019 substantially from the original Senate bill,” Jackson said… “At the end of the day, I cannot see myself supporting the House version of the Farm Act if they insist on keeping these changes that will inevitably have a negative impact on farmers statewide.”

Read the full story here. Learn more and read JLF’s John Sander’s most recent research brief on the hemp industry here.

Brenee Goforth / Marketing and Communications Associate

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