All marijuana is still illegal in North Carolina. But getting high on cannabis is easy — and legal
HomeHome > Blog > All marijuana is still illegal in North Carolina. But getting high on cannabis is easy — and legal

All marijuana is still illegal in North Carolina. But getting high on cannabis is easy — and legal

Jul 20, 2023

In a two-story shopping center near SouthPark Mall, there is typical suburban retail: A nail salon. A T-Mobile outlet. A FedEx store.

And a place called Blue Flowers.

When you approach it, the first thing you notice is the smell.

“It’s almost like the scent trail of a pie hanging out in a window, you know those little scent lines waving around,” said Nick Davenport, a Blue Flowers salesperson.

Blue Flowers sells hemp-based products, such as CBD oils. It also now sells gummies, hemp flower and pre-rolled joints.

It smells and looks like a California marijuana dispensary.

And what it sells produces the same psychoactive effects as marijuana, even though North Carolina is one of the most restrictive states when it comes to regulating that drug.

A bill to legalize medical marijuana is unlikely to pass the legislature this year.

But the debate in Raleigh does not appear to be an issue for Blue Flowers and other dispensaries in Charlotte.

Davenport is standing in front of several large mason jars of hemp flowers, with names for different strains like Bruce Banner and Karma 20/20. There are gummies at the front of the store and pre-rolled joints by the register.

“I’ve got things from sativa to hybrid to indica strains,” he said. “Sativas will always be more of that head focused, happy, euphoric, good strain, good for the daytime.”

He said others prefer an indica strain if “they want a more sedating relaxing experience, something more couch-lockey. Indica is In Da Couch for my people because you should expect that kind of effect,” he said.

“So yeah, it’s pretty fun,” he adds.

Davenport said people are stunned when they walk into Blue Flowers.

“One hundred percent. One hundred percent,” he said. “People come in here and are like, ‘I had no idea it was this far along.’ Often times people come in here and say ‘I had no idea I could get this kind of stuff.’ People will realize they have a legal alternative to flower and they stop going to their people, which is pretty fun.”

By people, he means dealer.

“That’s happened quite often,” he said. “People tell us some pretty liberal things about what’s going on with them. And I’m like, ‘Cool man, I’m glad we can get you something legal now.’ ”

When asked what pre-roll is best, Davenport pointed to one called a Lemon Drop.

“That one on the right is a lemon drop strain. It has a nice citrus hint to the flower. Just a nice smooth smoke. And you’ll be in a nice spot afterwards that’s for sure,” he said.

And with a $16 swipe of a credit card, the purchase is made.

Davenport said customers can leave with a special receipt to let law enforcement know it’s legal.

“If you just ever really want to have that safety of mind just grab a receipt with you on the way out,” he said. “We have a nice little sticker disclaimer on it that explains this is a legal product and that you won’t be penalized for it.”

The Lemon Drop, it turns out, does put one in a “nice spot” — which is a euphemism for, well, high.

And that’s true for what's sold at other stores as well, like Crowntown Cannabis or Greenlife Remedies on Pineville-Matthews Road.

One woman, who asked not to give her name, says she spends about $200 a month on flower at Greenlife “just to mellow out a little bit and go on with my day.”

“Honestly I like this stuff better (than marijuana) and compared to going to Denver (Colorado) the quality of it is pretty much the same,” she said. “I still get the same effects if I go to a state where it’s legal.”

So how is this legal in North Carolina, where medical marijuana isn’t even legal?

The door was first opened in 2018 when the federal government removed all hemp products from its list of controlled substances, so long as it has less than .3 percent Delta 9 THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana.

Last summer, North Carolina lawmakers brought the state’s hemp laws in line with the federal regulations and specifically allowed all hemp derivatives.

After hemp laws were liberalized, growers began experimenting. They learned to extract psychoactive products from legal hemp that are slightly different from Delta 9 THC.

One is Delta 8, said Jessica Kruger with the University of Buffalo.

“What they usually do is spray this on bud or flower, and that will get you high,” she said. “But it’s not THC. It’s Delta 8 THC, which is a derivative. Now, it will cause you to be positive on a drug test. But it’s technically skirting around the law.”

Delta 8 has been in Charlotte since the coronavirus pandemic.

A newer arrival in Charlotte is THC-A, which is what a number of stores, like Blue Flowers, sell.

That hemp strain, by itself, does not have any psychoactive effects,

But when heated — through vaping or baking or smoking — it converts to regular THC, proponents say.

Phil Dixon with UNC’s School of Government, an expert on the state’s hemp laws, says the federal legislation “blew open the doors on hemp.”

“These are intoxicating hemp products that do cause impairment,” he said. “And they’re often sold alongside CBD products and a hemp store that’s advertising CBD they’re almost certainly carrying these products to and my sense is these are the most popular products these days.”

Dixon said the new hemp market has created what he calls “the wild west” in North Carolina.

Though every CBD/hemp store I visited asked for proof of age before selling, there is no requirement they do so.

“There’s no age limit on this stuff,” Dixon said. “I have prosecutors calling me all the time saying, ‘Hey I have a kid, I found him with a bag Delta 8 gummies in middle school’ and I want to charge him. And it’s not a crime.”

What makes North Carolina even more strange is that it’s one of the most restrictive states when it comes to marijuana, but it’s one of the most liberal for hemp.

For instance, there are some states like New York where marijuana is legal, but where lawmakers have banned hemp-derivative Delta 8 in part because of safety concerns as to what’s in it.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said the new hemp-based products are “potent.”

Stein, who sued the e-cigarette maker JUUL over its marketing practices to minors, said there are vape stores near where his children went to high school in Raleigh.

“(They) are selling vapes with CBD in it and Delta 8 that has essentially 70% of the THC of marijuana,” Stein said. “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.”

Democratic and Republican lawmakers introduced a bill in the House this year that would have placed some regulation on the state’s hemp business, though the bill appears to have stalled.

Earlier this month, GOP House Speaker Tim Moore said a medical marijuana bill is dead because not enough members of his caucus support it.

Meanwhile, Blue Flowers is marketing beyond the chalkboards outside their stores.

It now has a billboard on Interstate 85.

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