Aug 2, 2023 - News

How to get legally high in North Carolina

Illustration of a marijuana leaf shown in the negative space of many leaves.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

North Carolina has yet to legalize marijuana in any form, but anyone here can buy and get high off a product just like it — legally.

Driving the news: Though the state is one of the most restrictive for marijuana — lawmakers have spent years debating how to carefully regulate medical marijuana to no avail —  it's among the most lax in its regulation of hemp products, which can offer some of the same psychoactive effects as weed, WFAE reports.

Why it matters: With little oversight, North Carolina has become the "wild west" for hemp, UNC's School of Government professor Phil Dixon told WFAE.

  • Dispensaries across the state can legally sell intoxicating products extracted from hemp without any restrictions or age limits.

What they're saying: They're selling vapes that have around 70% of the THC level that marijuana does, NC Attorney General Josh Stein told WFAE.

  • "There is not a law on the books in North Carolina that limits the age of one of these kids who can go buy one of these vapes," Stein said.

Flashback: Last year, North Carolina lawmakers passed into law legislation that brought the state in line with federal regulations on hemp, declassifying it as a controlled substance so long as the product contains less than .3% of the psychoactive component of marijuana, Delta-9 THC.

How it works: Among the most popular alternatives to cannabis here and across the country is Delta-8, which is a derivative of Delta-9, and can offer a similar high.

  • "What they usually do is spray this on bud or flower, and that will get you high," University of Buffalo professor Jessica Kruger told WFAE. "Now, it will cause you to be positive on a drug test. But it's technically skirting around the law."

What's next: Republican and Democratic state lawmakers alike filed legislation this year that would regulate these hemp products, including by banning the sale of hemp-derived products to anyone under the age of 18.

  • The bill would also mandate the licensure of manufacturers, sellers and distributors of hemp-derived consumables, and require that the products be tested for heavy metals, cannabinoids and pesticides, among other ingredients.

Yes, but: This year's legislative session is coming to a close, and the bill seems to have stalled, making it unlikely that it becomes law this year.

  • Members are still working on the legislation, however, a spokesperson for House Speaker Tim Moore told Axios.

Threat level: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration have warned that Delta-8 has health risks and has not been extensively researched or approved by the FDA.

  • "You don't have any idea what you're getting," Dixon told Axios.

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