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Smoke This Issue: The Facts

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Weed in North Carolina

North Carolina is very normal, for better or worse, in its dealing with marijuana, says Ron Wright, a Wake Forest University law professor. While it's not legal for medical use like it is in California, where even a mosquito bite gives you access to some seriously sticky shit, possession of weed is treated by Tar Heel prosecutors as a less significant criminal offense compared with other drugs, such as cocaine, meth and heroin. If you've ever been around a tweaked-out meth head or coked-out bro, you probably know why. It's also treated differently in different parts of the state. In urban areas, like Charlotte, it's not that it's decriminalized, but when compared to other crimes, it becomes less important than it would be in rural areas, Wright said. There also is a significant difference between a possession and dealing charge. Not that it matters to possessors. Most say they "only had it for personal use," Wright says. It's a prosecutor's job to decide who's telling the truth. North Carolina and about 20 other states follow structured sentencing, meaning judges can only give pre-determined sentences. It leaves them with less discretion than what judges have in purely discretionary states, where being caught with a joint could mean life without parole. Kids, stay out of Indiana.

Trending weed

Changing social attitudes are slowly being reflected in the way courts operate, Wright says. Juries are now more lenient toward marijuana offenses than ever before. There isn't a change in laws that's driving this, he says. As Matthew McConaughey's character in Dazed and Confused would say in his lazy stoner Texas twang: alright, alright, alright. According to the N.C. Department of Justice, in 2010 (the most recent data available), 2,156 people about 1,430 blacks, 439 whites and 11 Asians in Mecklenburg County were charged with possession of marijuana. Of those, 336 were between 25 and 29, the age group with the most arrests (and also, coincidentally, Taco Bell's most loyal demographic). That number is about the same as it was in 2009. A marijuana possession arrest is the most common possession arrest in Mecklenburg County.

Real-life Weeds

Ian, 44, and Allison, 39 were arrested in September on charges of running what deputies called a sophisticated marijuana business out of their mansion in the ritzy Marvin Creek neighborhood, near Ballantyne. According to WSOC TV, an anonymous tipper notified police, who eventually seized more than $60,000 worth of marijuana, as well as digital scales, paraphernalia and packaging equipment, from the couple's home. Neighbors described the Netupskys as friendly. The two face felony charges of possession with intent to sell or deliver marijuana, possession of marijuana, and maintaining a dwelling to store or sell a controlled substance. Let this serve as a warning to all you high-class pushers and hustlers: Take notes next time you watch Weeds.


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