What Happens if I Get Caught with Marijuana in North Carolina?

What Happens if I Get Caught with Marijuana in North Carolina?

On Election Night 2020, four more states voted to legalize marijuana. This brings the national total to 15 states. While one in every three Americans now lives in a state where marijuana is legal, getting caught with marijuana in North Carolina is still a crime.

What happens if you get caught with marijuana in North Carolina depends on a number of factors. Here’s some information that might help you understand your situation.

Didn’t NC decriminalize weed?

In addition to the 15 states that have legalized cannabis, an additional 13 have “decriminalized” the plant. Technically, North Carolina is one of them. It is true that you can no longer receive jail time for possessing a small amount of marijuana. However, in comparison to the other states that have decriminalized marijuana, the Tar Heel State still has some pretty strict laws on the books.

Caught with marijuana in North Carolina? Know the laws.
Image courtesy of Ahmed Zayan on Unsplash.

For example, in Virginia, people caught with under an ounce of weed receive a $25 civil fine with no jail time. In New Mexico, offenders get a $50 fine with no jail time. However, penalties in North Carolina, even after “decriminalization,” are stiffer.

What are the penalties for marijuana possession in NC?

If you are caught with marijuana in North Carolina, the potential penalty varies greatly on the amount in your possession.

The state considers possessing less than half an ounce of marijuana a Class 3 misdemeanor. Regardless of your criminal record, you will not receive any jail time. If you possess between half an ounce and one and one-half ounces, authorities can charge you with a Class 1 misdemeanor, which could land you in jail for up to 120 days depending on your previous criminal record.

Image courtesy of Matthew Ansley on Unsplash.

If authorities catch you with more than one and a half ounces, you move into felony territory. Possession of more than that amount results in a Class I felony, the lowest class of felony in NC. However, for a Class I felony, you can still face up to 21 months in prison, again depending on your criminal record.

Other Factors You Should Consider

In North Carolina, actual marijuana is not the only thing that you can be charged with. You can also face a charge for possession of drug paraphernalia if you have any items authorities deem to be related to drug activity. Paraphernalia could include things like pipes and herb grinders, but it could also include items like plastic baggies. The definition of paraphernalia is vague and open to interpretation.

Other factors will also affect your sentencing. For instance, North Carolina makes clear distinctions between simple possession and possession with intent to distribute. It also wields additional penalties for drug-related activity near school zones.

Selling or distributing marijuana is a serious offense under North Carolina law. If authorities catch you doing either activity, you’ll face a felony regardless of the amount. The same goes for growing or cultivating marijuana.

We’ve made this chart to give you a quick reference for the various marijuana laws in North Carolina.

Getting caught with marijuana in North Carolina can have serious penalties.
Information courtesy of NORML.
Chart courtesy of David Straughan.

If you get caught with marijuana in North Carolina, the penalties can range anywhere from a simple fine to significant jail time.

Looking for North Carolina’s hemp and CBD laws instead? Or do you want to know how legalization could affect North Carolina’s economy? Stay tuned to North Carolina News Daily for more updates and information.