Cannabis legislation stalls again in North Carolina legislature

RALEIGH, N.C. – It’s not hard to find cannabis products in North Carolina. Over the past few years, specialty stores and convenience stores have offered a variety of products. But the North Carolina Legislature ended another session without passing reforms or regulations to the industry.

Reilly Dunn was one of the people hoping the bill would finally cross the finish line. Dunn had been following the legislation for the past few sessions, hoping to see legislation that would benefit his company, Groovewagon.

What you need to know

  • The House and Senate have been unable to agree on several bills this legislative session.
  • One of them describes the regulations regarding hemp-derived products.
  • The owner of a Raleigh-based cannabis beverage company was hoping for clear regulations
  • He says different guidelines are needed for food and drink

Dunn and Sasha Klimczak are raising four young children while they develop a THC-infused beverage company in the hopes of giving people an alternative to alcohol.

“A lot of the work we do is very, very hands-on running the warehouse, going to events, going to retailers, doing tastings. But a lot of it now is also political work, so I have to stay in touch with the Hemp Beverage Alliance, a lot of lawyers and lobbyists, politicians,” Dunn said.

For the most part, Dunn said, lawmakers he has spoken to have been open to the need for regulation. But the need is different for cannabis-infused beverages compared to edibles.

“We don’t want SpongeBob on jelly beans. We don’t want kids reaching for crazy-strong stuff. And none of that has anything to do with our drinks as an alternative to alcohol,” Dunn says.

The proposal to regulate cannabis products passed the House of Representatives, but the Senate amended the bill to add legalization of medicinal marijuana and other changes, such as requiring products to be sold “over the counter.”

Dunn admitted such changes make him uneasy when it comes to beverages.

“If you look at where the majority of sales are going to come from, according to the Finance Committee, they expect the majority of sales to come from grocery stores and convenience stores and other large retail stores,” Dunn said. “The problem is that these counter sales regulations, which make a lot of sense for everything else, don’t really make sense for beverages because you already have to have a 21-plus card to buy adult beverages.”

These changes were significant enough that the House did not return to the bill because the two chambers must agree on the exact wording.

So for now, the status quo remains the same. Dunn said he will continue working, though.

“We just want to make sure we take the time to write really clean policies because if we want to see this huge, huge industry, we need to focus on the details.”