Deal Struck on NC Farm Bill, Smokable Hemp Ban

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— House and Senate negotiators struck a deal Thursday on the Farm Act, agreeing to outlaw smokable hemp come June of next year.

That breaks the logjam on one of the weightier bills still outstanding as the General Assembly heads toward at least a temporary close.

Senate Bill 315 is a wide-ranging measure, with language dealing with sweet potatoes, hog farms and skeet shooting. But it was the state’s attempt to set up a new regulatory structure for hemp that generated the most controversy and deadlocked key House and Senate leaders.

Hemp is a burgeoning economic crop for the state and used in a number of products. But the smokable stuff, used as a delivery mechanism for CBD and its potential medicinal effects, quickly became a profit center for hemp farmers.

The problem: It looks and smells like marijuana. Law enforcement around the state complained that, by keeping it legal, the legislature was all but legalizing marijuana, too.

If officers can’t tell the difference between the two, they lose probable cause not just on drug arrests but others that started with the smell of marijuana smoke, police, sheriffs and district attorneys complained.

The compromise will let hemp farmers sell smokable hemp in North Carolina until June 1 of next year, splitting the difference to some extent between the House, which wanted an earlier cutoff, and the Senate, which wanted a later one.

The full bill runs 32 pages. It’s slated for votes in the House and the Senate on Monday that would send the bill to Gov. Roy Cooper for his signature.

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