North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has convened a task force that recommends that the state decriminalize marijuana possession and initiate a survey on the merits of legalizing cannabis.
Attorney General Josh Stein, who co-chairs the Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice, said no one could talk about improving social and racial equity without mentioning marijuana. The Attorney General added that both white and Black North Carolinians use cannabis at similar rates, yet black people are disproportionately arrested and prosecuted for the drug.
Stein added that if North Carolina leadership is to talk about social and racial equity, it should begin with implementing a real safe, and measured public approach to legalizing cannabis.
The taskforce has since recommended decriminalizing possession of more than 2 ounces of marijuana and instead make it a civil offense.
One of the panel’s key recommendations is to expunge records related to marijuana offenses.
The task force also wants the state to form another task force specifically for conducting a study on the merits and demerits of legalizing cannabis commerce and possession.
The panel said the review should be guided by the principles of public safety, public health, and racial equity.
In the meantime, the panel recommends that arrests for cannabis possessions and felony drug possession above 0.25 grams of illegal substances should be deprioritized. They encouraged prosecutors to deprioritize cannabis-related cases.
Superior Court Justice Anita Earls co-chairs the task force. Members of the panel include the Fayetteville mayor, chief of police in Durham and Apex, the sheriffs of Richmond and Brunswick counties, and other state officials.
Additionally, the panel is pushing for improved drug enforcement data collection, including tracking race and gender arrestees.
The panel is expected to submit its formal report on it’s complete recommendations to Governor Cooper on December 15.