Alcohol farm

Hemp Legalization, Alcohol, Elevator Safety Bills and More Head to Cooper for Signing ::

The North Carolina Senate on Wednesday sent a bill to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper to keep hemp farmers and sellers in business.

The measure passed just over 24 hours before an impending deadline that threatened to make the infant industry illegal in the state from Friday.

It was among a handful of bills that advanced across the governor’s desk Wednesday as the short session neared adjournment. Lawmakers hoped to end the session before July 4 weekend.

The 41-2 vote on hemp ends a high-stakes political drama between the Republican-controlled House and Senate.

The House on Tuesday passed a more sweeping farm bill, Senate Bill 762, after a committee voted to remove hemp legalization from the farm bill. House lawmakers had instead pushed for Senate Bill 455, a more narrowly tailored hemp legalization bill. After the House removed hemp legalization from the Senate proposal, the Senate declined to consider the House’s more targeted legislation. Ultimately, the Senate sent both measures to Cooper on Wednesday.

“It was a bit of a stalemate,” Republican Senate Leader Phil Berger told reporters after the vote.

State lawmakers temporarily legalized crop cultivation in 2015 through a pilot program, which is set to expire Thursday night. If lawmakers hadn’t voted to legalize hemp, the booming industry would have been equated with marijuana as an illegal controlled substance under state law, making sellers liable to possession charges. and traffic.

“It has recreational benefits if you just want a good night’s sleep, you can also have a really relaxed night, an energetic and fun night, but also if you have neuropathy, we’ve seen people with Alzheimer’s and things like that, and it’s really helped with cannabis,” said Austin Bain, chief operating officer of Hempies, which sells hemp products.

Senate Bill 455 would distinguish hemp from marijuana and comply with federal law by defining hemp as cannabis containing less than 0.3% of Delta-9, the chemical in marijuana that produces the high of Drugs.

“They ran the clock on the Farm Act in the House yesterday and there just isn’t enough time to disagree and send it back to the House,” said Sen. Brent Jackson, a Sampson County Republican who was deeply involved in the negotiations. “I made the decision last night that we would take the high road and pass their bill to get it to the governor so he could sign it.”

Cooper is expected to sign the bill before the Thursday night deadline to keep hemp legal, though his office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the governor’s attitude toward the two measures.

In recent years, talk of permanently legalizing hemp has sparked protests from law enforcement, who say it will be impossible to arrest people for possession of marijuana. But this year there has been little opposition to the bill.

Bain said 90% of its customers come specifically for hemp products.

“[If the bill hadn’t passed,] it would have put us in a kind of limbo … because at the state level we are not exactly protected, technically we would have been sort of illegal,” he said.

A number of other measures either made their way to Cooper on Wednesday or advanced through the legislative process. Among them:

  • A proposal that would fill a gap in coverage for domestic violence protection orders has been sent to Cooper’s office. The bill, House Bill 615, which would allow judges to temporarily renew a domestic violence protection order to fill the gap between an order’s expiration and an upcoming hearing.
  • A plan to make rental home elevators safer was also sent to Cooper. The measure is called Weston’s Law, named after a young boy who was crushed between the inner and outer elevator doors last year while vacationing at a beach house in Corolla. The bill requires landlords of rental units that have a large space between the floor and the elevator to cover it with a barrier. It was adopted unanimously by both houses.
  • A bill to amend a liquor law that requires bars that do not serve food to be classed as private clubs. Under current law, they are supposed to charge for membership and keep records of their members. The bill, also directed to Cooper for signature, would remove that requirement.
  • A measure temporarily suspending the state’s automatic erasure of certain criminal records. If House Bill 607 were enacted, approximately 10,000 North Carolinas would not have their records automatically erased, although there is still a process in place for them to request the files be permanently deleted.
  • The Senate voted unanimously to confirm Kody Kinsley, Cooper’s top public health official, as head of the state Department of Health and Human Services. Kinsley is the first openly gay cabinet member in state government history. The Senate also confirmed Eddie Buffaloe as Secretary of the Department of Public Safety.

Medicaid stalled

One plan that doesn’t sit well with Cooper yet is expanding Medicaid, which was also omitted from lawmakers’ recent budget proposal. Cooper did not weigh in on the state spending plan, and Berger said he was unsure if Cooper would veto it.

North Carolina Legislative Building

Berger also said his chamber would not consider a House proposal that would study the issue further with a commitment to vote on Medicaid later this year.

“We won’t accept that,” Berger said. “I don’t know if there is a way for us to come to an agreement.”

WRAL reporter Leslie Moreno contributed to this story.