North Carolina looks to Virginia as it considers medical marijuana

North Carolina looks to Virginia as it considers medical marijuana

Queen Hemp Company in Charlotte. Photo: Emma Way/Axios

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Marijuana advocates are hopeful that 2021 could be the year medical marijuana is legalized in North Carolina.

Driving the news: The bipartisan NC Compassionate Care Act has gotten further than any other marijuana-related bill with its clearing of the Senate Judiciary committee two weeks ago.

  • Today at 2pm, it will be heard by the Finance committee.
  • The bill still needs to go through two more committees after that before it can get a vote on the Senate floor.

[Go deeper: Most states now have legal medical marijuana, but N.C. lags behind]

Zoom out: The bill is a more modest step compared our neighbor state Virginia, which legalized recreational marijuana as of July 1.

  • Legal sales won’t start there until 2024, but possession of up to an ounce or four plants per household is legal.

The purpose of Virginia’s bill is less about access as it is equity. “The July 1 law is rooted in eliminating racist enforcement of simple possession, not to expand access. Because it’s always been accessible, but only certain people have been criminalized for it,” Marijuana Justice founder Chelsea Higgs Wise told the Virginia Mercury.

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Even without legal sales, a budding new industry has appeared across the border.

  • Cannabar opened in Virginia Beach. The 4,000-square-foot bar and CBD shop allows guests to BYO-marijuana.
  • New businesses like Homegrown VA have launched with the hope of educating people how to grow cannabis at home.

The bottom line: What happens today in the Senate, and what happens in Virginia, will play a big role in how North Carolina approaches legalization in years to come.

[Related Axios story: Delta-8: The legal weed you’ve never heard of]

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