Bill Summary for H 626 (2023-2024)

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Summary date: 

Apr 17 2023

Bill Information:

View NCGA Bill Details2023-2024 Session
House Bill 626 (Public) Filed Monday, April 17, 2023
Intro. by Autry, Alexander, Harrison, Hawkins.

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Bill summary

Part I.

Enacts new GS Chapter 18D, establishing registration and licensure requirements and procedures governing the operation of cannabis establishments, and making possession and use of cannabis for personal use by persons at least 21 years of age lawful within the statutory possession limit. States legislative findings. Excludes Article 43 of GS Chapter 90, as enacted and governing medical cannabis, from the scope of the new Chapter. Creates the Office of Social Equity (Office) within the Department of Public Safety, and provides for the Office's executive director, funding, and powers and duties, which include defining social equity applicant, advising the Department of Public Safety, providing reporting, investigating establishments, and administering three funds established by the act: the Community Reinvestment and Repair Fund, the Social Equity Fund, and the Cannabis Education and Technical Assistance Fund. 

Charges the Department of Public Safety (Department) with cannabis establishment registration issuance and annual renewal. Provides for conditional approval for applicants that have not yet purchased or leased the establishment location. Subjects registered establishments to Department inspection. Requires establishments operating with on-site consumption to be issued a permit, license, or registration that expressly allows such operation by the local regulatory authority of the locality. Authorizes local prohibition of establishments by ordinance, so long as transportation through or delivery within the locality is permitted. Authorizes localities to govern the time, place, manner, and number of operations consistent with the Chapter. Bars host community agreements whereby establishments or applicants provide anything of value to the locality.

Makes possession, transfer, and use of cannabis by persons at least 21 years of age lawful within the statutory possession limit, defined as: (1) two ounces of cannabis, excluding concentrated cannabis or cannabis products; (2) 15 grams of concentrated cannabis; (3) cannabis products containing no more than 2,000 mg of tetrahydrocannabinol; (4) six cannabis plants; or (5) any additional cannabis produced by the person's cannabis plants provided that possession exceeding these limits is limited to the same property of cultivation. Establishes restrictions for cultivating cannabis plants, including requiring cultivation out of public view and taking reasonable precautions to secure the plants from unauthorized access by minors, with violations constituting infractions punishable by up tp $750 or up to 75 hours of community service. Makes it an infraction, punishable by a fine of up to $50 or up to five hours of community service, to smoke cannabis in a public place or in an area of an on-site consumption establishment where smoking is prohibited. Makes it an infraction to operate a motor vehicle or motorized device used for transportation, punishable by a fine of up to $250, up to 25 hours of community service, and/or license suspension for up to six months. Provides increased penalties for subsequent offenses. 

Makes it an infraction, punishable by a fine of up to $150 or up to 15 hours of community service, for a person under 21 to present false identification in procuring or attempting to procure cannabis, or gaining access to a cannabis establishment. Makes specified extractions from cannabis a Class E felony, punishable by a fine of up to $5,000. Makes possession, use, distribution, or manufacture of cannabis accessories by persons 21 or older lawful, subject to Department rules. For violations, makes a first offense an infraction punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and forfeiture, and a second offenses a Class A1 misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and/or up to 180 days in jail and forfeiture. Establishes penalties and court-ordered entry into substance abuse treatment and/or education programs for juveniles and persons over 18 for possessing, using, or purchasing cannabis or cannabis accessories.  Prohibits discrimination in employment and professional licensure and public assistance benefits, and prohibits arresting, prosecuting, or assessing a penalty solely for conduct permitted by the Chapter. Provides other protections relating to child custody or visitation, State or local government benefits and entitlement, medical care, and conditions of pretrial release.

The Chapter does not prevent government employers from disciplining employees or contractors for consumption in the workplace or working while impaired, nor prevent penalization of conduct under the influence which would constitute negligence or professional malpractice. Provides for the Chapter to not apply when it conflicts with the governmental employers' federal obligations or federal monetary or licensing-related benefits. Deems operation of a registered establishment lawful, subject to the Chapter, Department rules, and local authorities. Details requirements for establishments to verify that consumers are 21 or older and provides for an affirmative defense to prosecutions for violations. Provides protections from discrimination for the provision of services to or previous employment at a cannabis establishment. Provides for the rights of property owners and protections for tenants with prior cannabis-related convictions. Deems contracts related to establishment operation enforceable. Details restrictions of law enforcement and State and local governments with respect to conduct permitted under the Chapter. 

Requires the Department to adopt necessary implementing rules within 180 days of January 1, 2022, as specified, and include 27 specified regulations. 

Establishes a 30% cannabis excise tax for sales of cannabis and cannabis products, excluding sales of medical cannabis pursuant to applicable law. Details tax collection and administration. Allows municipalities to levy a local excise tax of 2%, excluding sales of medical cannabis. Details local tax collection and administration. Provides for apportionment of the cannabis excise tax for specified funds and purposes.

Effective January 1, 2026, and applies to offenses committed on or after that date. 

Part II.

Enacts GS 15A-145.8B, mandating the automatic expunction of convictions for offenses involving marijuana or hashish that is legal under new GS Chapter 18D by July 1, 2026. Charges the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) with determining eligible offenses, creating an electronic list of offenses, and providing the list to clerks of superior court by October 1, 2025, to prepare and complete orders of expungement. Provides for expungement of related government records, except DNA records and samples stored, and reversal of administration actions taken as a result from the charges or convictions expunged. Provides for the effect of the expunction. Effective January 1, 2024.

Part III.

Makes conforming repeals in the following statutory sections to reflect the new enactments: GS 90-87, GS 90-94, GS 90-95, GS 90-113.22A, GS 90-113.21, GS 105-113.106, GS 105-113.107, GS 105-113-107A, GS 105-113.108, GS 106-134, GS 148-64.1, and GS 90-94.1.

Makes conforming changes to GS 105-113.106, defining dealer to exclude possession of marijuana. 

Effective January 1, 2026.

Part IV.

Includes a severability clause.

Provides a savings clause for prosecutions for offenses committed before the effective date of the act.