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How To Open A Dispensary In North Carolina


Are you looking for information on how to open a dispensary in North Carolina? This page will keep you informed on the latest news and information about the cannabis industry in the state. This includes valuable insights about what will come in the following several months.

In North Carolina, legislation to regulate the use of medical cannabis by patients is pending.

On April 7th, 2021, a bill was introduced in North Carolina that would establish a fairly standard medical marijuana industry. Senators Bill Rabon (R), Michael Lee (R), and Paul Lowe (D) have sponsored Senate Bill 711, which would establish the North Carolina Compassionate Care Act. Individuals with qualifying debilitating medical illnesses would be able to register to use and get medicinal cannabis safely via a controlled medical cannabis supply system. Senate Bill 711 passed in the Senate but died in the House. 

Meanwhile, on June 8th, 2022, the N.C. House voted 92-9 in favor of a separate bill, Senate Bill 448, which would legalize THC medications that have been approved by the FDA. On June 14th, 2022, Governor Cooper signed the bill into law.

On January 25, 2023, Senate Bill 3 was filed with the objective of enacting the North Carolina Compassionate Care Act. This legislation seeks to create a well-regulated medical cannabis supply system, enabling individuals with debilitating medical conditions to legally obtain cannabis and cannabis-infused products. Although the state Senate approved the Compassionate Care Act in March 2023, the bill faced resistance in the House which has effectively halted its progress.

In addition to Senate Bill 3, two bills have been proposed in North Carolina’s state legislature to legalize recreational marijuana. House Bill 626, proposed on April 17th, 2023, would legalize possession of small amounts of cannabis for adults aged 21 and over, and establish a framework for the production and sale of recreational cannabis, while Senate Bill 346, filed on March 21st, 2023, would allow possession of up to two ounces of marijuana and set a regulatory framework for production and sales of recreational marijuana. Both bills also include social equity provisions to support communities negatively impacted by nearly a century of prohibition.

On July 20th, 2023, the North Carolina Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Council voted to hold a vote during the September 7th, 2023 tribal general election to decide whether to legalize recreational marijuana on their 57,000-acre tract in the western part of the state, located about 46 miles from Asheville. The tribe already decriminalized cannabis possession in 2021 and currently serves as the sole provider of medical cannabis in the state. 

Amidst these developments, the state is seeing an increase in support for marijuana legalization. Democrats in the North Carolina General Assembly have openly stated that they want to reform the marijuana regulations. A study by Elon University indicated that 54% of North Carolinians support recreational marijuana legalization, with 73% in favor of medicinal use. 

On February 5th, 2024, a Meredith Poll further echoed this sentiment revealing that nearly 80% of North Carolinians advocate for the state legislature to revisit and approve a medical marijuana bill during this year’s short session. This overwhelming support comes after the North Carolina Compassionate Care Act, known as Senate Bill 3, passed the Senate last year but was halted in the House. The poll, conducted from January 26-31, 2024 with 760 respondents, indicates a mere 18% opposition, showcasing a significant public push for medical cannabis legalization. The anticipation grows for the bill’s potential return and a hopeful vote in the House. We anticipate that additional information about legalization, regulations, and the application procedure will soon become available. As this additional information becomes available, we will update this page with the relevant information. Here’s what you need to know right now.

On June 6th, 2024, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina approved Ordinance 63, amending Chapter 17 of the Cherokee Code to allow recreational cannabis sales in addition to medical marijuana sales. While marijuana remains illegal in the rest of North Carolina, the tribe can establish its own regulations as a sovereign nation. The legislation requires approval by Principal Chief Michell Hicks to become law and includes regulations for safe consumption and restricted public use.

How big is the opportunity? 

Based on average excise tax projections and the number of people who use marijuana, the Tax Foundation anticipates North Carolina may receive $182,947,622 in annual excise tax revenue.

Medical Marijuana Program Opportunities

Cannabis is still illegal in North Carolina for any purpose other than extremely restricted medicinal use. Currently, only medical CBD products are allowed. In 2014, the Hope for Haley and Friends Act was introduced. To treat epileptic patients, the bill, which was named after a child who suffered from seizures, advocated the use of marijuana extracts as a treatment option. This was passed into law as HB766 in 2015 and permits persons suffering from intractable epilepsy to utilize hemp extract, which is an oil extracted from marijuana that does not have any psychoactive effects, to treat their condition.  

The legalization and regulation of medical marijuana in the state are currently pending. 

Currently, qualifying debilitating medical conditions listed include cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, Parkinson’s disease, and PTSD. You may refer to the bill for a complete list of conditions and information.

Hemp production is legal in North Carolina, although it is limited to a pilot program run by the state in accordance with the provisions of federal law. N.C. General Assembly enacted SB 313 in 2015, authorizing the Industrial Hemp Commission to draft regulations and licenses.

The legalization and regulation of medical marijuana in the state are currently pending. On March 1st, 2023, the North Carolina Senate passed the “N.C. Compassionate Care Act”, legalizing medical marijuana for patients with illnesses such as cancer, PTSD, and HIV/AIDS. The bill still needs to be passed by the state House and signed into law or vetoed by the governor.

Here’s what Senate Bill 711 would have done if it had passed into law:

Medical Cannabis Supplier Licensing

Only ten medical cannabis supplier licenses would have been authorized to manufacture or sell medicinal marijuana products within the state. Each licensee would have been allowed to operate a maximum of four medical cannabis centers.

Applicants for medical cannabis suppliers would have been required to show evidence of state residency for at least two years, majority ownership, and five years of expertise in a medicinal or adult-use cannabis business. Nonresident partners with relevant expertise would also have been allowed to apply.

Application Fees & Registration Costs

Medical cannabis suppliers would have been required to pay a $50,000 nonrefundable application fee and an additional $5,000 for each production site or medical cannabis center to be considered for a marijuana business license.

On an annual basis, suppliers would have been required to pay a renewal license fee of less than $10,000, with an additional $1,000 per production site or medical cannabis center. 

Suppliers would have been required to get a registration identity card, which costs $250 for each director and employee of the company.

Who is responsible for the regulation of cannabis in North Carolina?

SB 711 would have created the Compassionate Use Advisory Board, composed of 11 individuals. The Board would have considered applications for the addition of new qualifying conditions. 

Senate Bill 711 would have created an eleven-member Medical Cannabis Production Commission. Among its responsibilities are establishing criteria and conditions for licensing suppliers, the manufacture of cannabis, and the effective regulation of medical cannabis centers and cannabis production facilities managed by suppliers.

Upon recommendation of the Department of Health and Human Services, the Commission would hold the authority to grant license applications for medical cannabis suppliers. The Commission would issue ten medical supplier licenses to marijuana businesses that may each operate up to four dispensaries according to the proposed rules and regulations.

In addition, the Department would have set criteria for and authorized up to five independent testing laboratories under the terms of the bill.

Recreational Use Legalization

In 2023, two bills, House Bill 626 and Senate Bill 346, are pending in the North Carolina state legislature, aiming to legalize recreational marijuana for adults. 

Here’s what House Bill 626 would do:

  • legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana
  • establish a framework for the production and sale of recreational marijuana
  • include social equity provisions

Here’s what Senate Bill 346 would do:

  • legalize possession of up to two ounces of marijuana or 15 grams of cannabis concentrates
  • allow cultivation of up to six cannabis plants at home
  • set a 20% tax on marijuana products

As North Carolina continues to develop its cannabis program and as events unfold that will impact when and how marijuana legalization will occur, we will keep you informed of any pertinent news regarding the establishment of a dispensary in North Carolina. By subscribing to our North Carolina Cannabis Mailing List (Below), we will keep you informed of any relevant and not-so-easy-to-find information and news about North Carolina Legalization. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • What are the most recent developments regarding the legalization of cannabis in North Carolina?
  • When will applications for new cannabis licenses be available?
  • What special programs will be offered?
  • And more 


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