As five more states jumped on the bandwagon this month to legalize recreational marijuana, a North Carolina task force is now recommending that marijuana possession be decriminalized.
The task force had been convened by North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper in order to develop policies to advocate for racial equity in the criminal justice system.
Attorney General Josh Stein announced the task force’s recommendations this week. “You cannot talk about improving racial equity in our criminal justice system without talking about marijuana,” said 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.”
According to a co-chair on the task force, Justice Anita Earls, 63 percent of more than 10,000 convictions for marijuana possession in 2019 were of minorities, despite them making up only 30 percent of the population. Research has showed that Black and White populations have roughly the same percentage of marijuana usage.
Task force’s recommendations are as follows:
- Pass legislation to decriminalize the possession of up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana by making such possession a civil offense and expunge past convictions through an automatic process.
- Convene a task force of stakeholders, free from conflict of interest, to study the pros and cons and options for legalization of possession, cultivation and/or sale, including government or not for profit monopoly options. The study should be guided by a public safety, public health, and racial equity framework.
- Improve drug enforcement data collection and reporting through required participation in NIBRS system and required publishing of drug enforcement data on law enforcement department websites.
- Deemphasize felony drug possession arrests for trace quantities under .25 grams in non-ABC permitted locations.
- Deemphasize marijuana possession arrests in non-ABC permitted locations.
- Deprioritize marijuana-related prosecution in non-ABC permitted locations.
The task force is scheduled to send its full recommendations to Gov. Roy Cooper by Dec. 15.