You may have heard that North Carolina decriminalized marijuana. This is true, but only to an extent, and it definitely does not mean that the drug is now completely legal in the state. 

What decriminalization means is that people are given fines for crimes that are seen as minor infractions, rather than jail time. You can think of it like a speeding ticket. You still have to pay for that ticket, but you don’t spend any time behind bars. That’s what has happened with some low-level possession charges involving cannabis.

However, this is only true in North Carolina if you are caught with “less than half an ounce” of the drug. That’s a very tiny amount of marijuana. Carrying this small amount for personal use should not result in jail time, but you may have to pay a fine that maxes out at $200. 

If you have more than half an ounce of the drug in your possession, even just barely, then you start looking at potential jail time, such as the option for 1 to 45 days behind bars and up to $1,000 in fines if you have from half an ounce to one and a half ounces. The penalties get very strict, very quickly. 

This is all very important to note right now because more and more states have made marijuana legal for recreational use, from Washington to Michigan. This means that those caught with small amounts will not even get a fine. They’re allowed to have it if they’re of age and they bought it legally, just like alcohol. However, this is not true in North Carolina right now, so don’t assume it is or get caught bringing in marijuana from another state. It’s still illegal once you get here. 

If you do find yourself facing serious drug charges, you need to know what defense options you have. A defense attorney can help you better understand the charges against you, the potential penalties and the next steps forward in your case.