NC Drug Laws

In the US, almost half of all people imprisoned are there for drug related offenses. In North Carolina, drug related offenses are one of the top reasons people go to prison. Drug offenses are not to be taken lightly. If you, a friend, or family member have been charged with any type of drug offense, hiring an experienced lawyer to help defend your charge is extremely important. A conviction for a drug offense on a criminal record has widespread consequences to your future.

Misdemeanor Drug Laws in NC

If you, or someone you know, has been charged with drug possession, take it seriously. While many consider this a “minor crime,” it can have major consequences, including jail time, lengthy probationary periods, drug screens, fines, administrative costs, and more. State laws are increasingly providing tough prosecution on drug possession and other drug related offenses and the criminal penalties can be quite harsh.

North Carolina’s misdemeanor drug laws include, but are not limited to:

  • Misdemeanor Possession of Drug Paraphernalia: It’s illegal for someone to use, or to possess with intent to use, drug paraphernalia for a variety of purposes, including to conceal an illegally controlled substance other than marijuana. It’s usually classified as a Class 1 misdemeanor.
  • Misdemeanor Possession of Other Drugs: Drugs include codeine, opium, and other types of narcotics and their salts. Possession of these types of substances may fall under a Class 1 misdemeanor.
  • Misdemeanor Possession of Marijuana: If the amount of marijuana is more than 0.5 ounces and up to 1.5 ounces, punishment may fall under a Class 1 misdemeanor. If you’re found with less than 0.5 ounces, you face a Class 3 misdemeanor.

Different drugs are organized under schedules ranging from I to VI. A Schedule I drug is the most dangerous, most addictive and has the highest potential for being abused. A Schedule VI drug is considered the least dangerous, yet can still cause a physical or psychological dependance if it is abused. Examples of the drugs in each schedule include, but aren’t limited to the following:

Schedule I – heroin, ecstasy, opiates and peyote

Schedule II – cocaine, codeine. morphine, opium, hydrocodone, methamphetamine

Schedule III – barbituates, ketamine, anabolic steroids ; Schedule IV – barbital, narcotics, Xanax, valium

Schedule V – These drugs have an accepted medical use but also have the possibility of physical or psychological dependance if abused, for example cough medicines that contain codeine.

Schedule VI – marijuana, hemp oils. The exception for hemp oils and other hemp products is if they contain no THC, the psychedelic compound found in marijuana, as well any other psychoactive substances.

Facing the Consequences

The punishment served for misdemeanors in our state will vary based on prior convictions and which class the misdemeanor falls. Classes of offenses range from A1 to A3, and prior conviction levels range from I (no prior convictions), II (one to four prior convictions), and III (five or more prior convictions). Consequences for drug use, possession, and distribution in North Carolina can range from fines and no jail time to felony charges and an extensive period of time in prison.

Different types of drugs are categorized into different schedules. The higher the probability of abuse associated with a drug and its level of acceptance for medical use will determine into which schedule it fits.

Each of the misdemeanor classifications will vary based on your intent to distribute, how much of the drug you have in your possession, and in what capacity the drug is found. Each situation is unique and is best explained by an experienced attorney.

No matter the charge, everyone deserves fair legal representation. Our attorneys will take the time to explain the legal process and make sure you get the treatment and outcome you deserve.

Members of the experienced team at Greene Wilson Crow Smith can explain your possible outcomes, investigate your offense, and help you avoid the negative consequences you may face. For more information, or to schedule a consultation, please contact Greene Wilson Crow Smith Attorneys at Law by calling (252) 634-9400 or visiting

(Sources: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; and North Carolina Controlled Substances Act.)