Just days after President Joe Biden announced he would pardon all prior federal offenses of simple marijuana possession and urged governors to do the same, North Carolina’s Gov. Roy Cooper (D) has taken steps in that direction.
During a Friday task force meeting on racial equity and criminal justice, Cooper addressed the issue of marijuana decriminalization, saying that it’s time to “end the stigma.”
The task force, established in June 2020, includes law enforcement officers, attorneys, civil rights advocates and state officials. The 24-member panel announced in a 2020 report that lawmakers should consider possession of up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana as a civil offense instead of a misdemeanor. However, the General Assembly ignored the task force’s recommendation.
“The General Assembly didn’t pass your recommendations on this last session, but I believe they should,” Cooper said, adding that cannabis possession conviction can “mar people’s records for life and maybe even prevent them from getting a job.”
Currently, North Carolinians caught with more than 1.5 ounces face a felony charge, while possession of over 0.5 ounces is punishable by up to 45 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein seconded the governor’s stance on the issue.
“People should not have a federal criminal record for something that is legal in an increasing number of states,” Stein said last week. “Let’s act, and let’s get it right. That means decriminalizing adult use, expunging past convictions for simple possession, and including strong protections for kids, no advertising, state-controlled sales and putting NC farmers first.”
Meanwhile, the state Senate approved the NC. Compassionate Care Act in June with bipartisan support in a 35-10 vote. The bill, co-sponsored by Senator Bill Rabon (R), sought to allow cannabis with higher levels of THC to treat debilitating conditions such as cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder.
However, North Carolina House Republicans decided not to legalize medical cannabis later that month.
House Speaker Tim Moore (R) was a key lawmaker who dismissed the idea of enacting medical cannabis legalization this year. “I feel very confident that Republicans will have a supermajority next year. When I say next year, I mean six months from now. We can deal with this then,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Benzinga and has been reposted with permission.