A state panel has recommended that North Carolina essentially legalize the possession of up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana, making it a civil offense and expunging past convictions.
Members of the N.C. Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice, co-chaired by Attorney General Josh Stein and justice Anita Earls, also recommend a separate task force to study the legalization of possessing, growing and/or selling marijuana.
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“You cannot talk about improving racial equity in our criminal justice system without talking about marijuana,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “White and Black North Carolinians use marijuana at similar rates, yet Black people are disproportionately arrested and sentenced. Additionally, it is time for North Carolina to start having real conversations about a safe, measured, public health approach to potentially legalizing marijuana.”
In North Carolina, 63% of people convicted of simple possession of marijuana last year were non-white, even though people of color are only 30% of the population – and research shows that marijuana use is at roughly equal percentages among Black and white residents, said Earls.
Currently, having up to 1/2 ounce of marijuana is a misdemeanor that carries a fine of up to $200.
Possessing more than 1/2 ounce but up to 1.5 ounces is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 45 days in prison and a $200 fine.
The racial equity task force will release full recommendations on Dec. 15 in a report to Gov. Roy Cooper.