Hemp or Marijuana


Before we take a deep dive into the difference between Hemp and Marijuana, the legalization of hemp in North Carolina has stirred up a number of problems in our courts.

Hemp is Legal

Back in 2015, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation released a memo that explained the issues in which hemp versus marijuana will bring. Specifically, SBI stated that there was no easy way for law enforcement to distinguish between industrial hemp and marijuana. Further, hemp and marijuana look the same and have the same odor, both unburned and burned. This would make it impossible for law enforcement to use the appearance of marijuana or odor of marijuana to develop probable cause for arrest, seizure of the item, or probable cause for a search warrant. In order for an officer to seize an item, the officer must have probable cause that the item is an evidence of a crime. This is important because in 2022, hemp-derived THC products were removed from the definition of marijuana under N.C.G.S. § 90-94’s Schedule VI controlled substances. This means that all hemp-derived THC products (delta-9, delta-8, delta-10, THCO, THCV, etc.) with a concentration of less than .3% THC are legal.


Under N.C.G.S. § 90-87(13a), hemp means the plant Cannabis sativa (L.) and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than three-tenths of one percent (0.3%) on a dry weight basis.

Subsection (13b) states that "Hemp products" means all products made from hemp, including, but not limited to, cloth, cordage, fiber, food, fuel, paint, paper, particleboard, plastics, seed, seed meal and seed oil for consumption, and verified propagules for cultivation if the seeds originate from hemp varieties. Lastly,

Subsection (16) states that "Marijuana" means all parts of the plant of the genus Cannabis, whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds or resin, but shall not include the mature stalks of such plant, fiber produced from such stalks, oil, or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination. The term does not include hemp or hemp products.

The main difference between the two substances is that industrial hemp contains very low levels of THC, which is a psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.