Although many states have legalized cannabis for medical and/or recreational use, North Carolina still has some of the nation’s strictest laws prohibiting marijuana. House Bill 766, introduced in April 2019 and currently under review by the state General Assembly, strives to decriminalize adult possession of less than 4 ounces of cannabis and expunge certain prior marijuana convictions.

In the meantime, however, penalties for possession and trafficking of cannabis in North Carolina still include hefty fines and potential jail time.

Penalties for possession

Possession of less than 0.5 ounces of cannabis carries a $200 fine as a misdemeanor offense. For possession of between 0.5 and 1.5 ounces, an individual could receive up to 45 days in jail and fines of up to $1,000. Between 1.5 ounces and 10 pounds of cannabis constitutes a felony and carries between three and eight months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Cannabis trafficking penalties

Possession of more than 10 pounds of dry cannabis constitutes a felony trafficking offense in North Carolina. As with possession, penalties vary by quantity:

  • Ten to 50 pounds: $5,000 in fines and 25 to 30 months in prison
  • Fifty to 2,000 pounds: $25,000 in fines and 35 to 42 months in prison
  • Two thousand to 10,000 pounds: $50,000 in fines and 70 to 84 months in prison
  • More than 10,000 pounds: $200,000 in fines and 175 to 219 months in prison

Factors that affect sentencing

Although these penalties are quite strict when compared to those in other states, the circumstances of a case play a role in the sentence upon conviction. For example, first-time offenders in possession of less than 1.5 pounds of marijuana may receive probation and drug education rather than fines and jail time. Conversely, individuals who have a previous controlled substance conviction will receive increased penalties.

People who receive a cannabis possession charge should understand the potential penalties and take action to protect their interests. Many people seek the advice of an attorney to learn about their options.