Drug Charges in North Carolina Get a Makeover

Drug laws across the country are changing fast, especially regarding marijuana. Depending on the state you live in, marijuana may be completely legal, approved for medical use, or decriminalized. In North Carolina, certain arrests involving marijuana are no longer considered a crime and can be remedied with as little as a $200 fine. The rules regarding paraphernalia have also changed slightly. Not legal yet, but making progress.


Other North Carolina drug charges that have been restructured also include certain felony drug crimes. In the summer of 2020, North Carolina passed the First Step Act to reduce the harsh penalties associated with certain felony drug crimes. The new law went into effect in December 2020 and may help someone currently facing North Carolina drug charges. The First Step Act also affects drug offenders already convicted or incarcerated, and a Charlotte drug defense attorney can help you navigate the process. 


The First Step Act in North Carolina is not as comprehensive as the federal law bearing the same name, but it does provide needed relief for many. The law can aid people charged with drug trafficking of controlled substances, such as cocaine and opioids. The foundation of the new law is simple: allow judges in North Carolina to bypass the mandatory minimum sentence required in drug trafficking cases. Instead of serving a minimum of 25 months in prison for drug trafficking, for example, a judge can base the verdict on the circumstances alone. 

Who Does the First Step Act Help?

The First Step Act applies to defendants who have been sentenced on or after December 1, 2020, with some exceptions for convictions before that date. This new North Carolina drug law isn't just narrow in scope—it also comes with some pretty stiff eligibility requirements:

  • You acknowledge responsibility for your actions.

  • You acknowledge that you have a substance abuse disorder and are seeking treatment.

  • You have no other conviction of a felony under N.C.G.S. 90-95.

  • Your crime didn’t involve violence, the threat of violence, or dangerous weapons.

  • You’re being sentenced for drug trafficking because of possession only.

  • You’re being sentenced for trafficking the lowest amount of drugs that could result in a conviction.

  • There is no direct evidence that you manufacture, sell, or transport drugs.

  • You have freely assisted in identifying, arresting, or convicting others involved in the crime.

  • The mandatory minimum prison term would far outweigh the seriousness of the crime.

  • The required minimum prison sentence isn’t necessary to protect society.


Like most laws, the First Step Act has its share of grey areas that are open to interpretation, and it remains to be seen how complicated the process will be overall. Those grey areas are exactly why you need 

an experienced drug charge attorney on your side. 


Find Out How the New North Carolina Drug Laws Affect You


Whether it's the decriminalization for certain marijuana drug offenses or a second chance for convicted drug offenders, new laws need time to settle in—especially ones as complicated as the First Step Act. If you or someone you know has been convicted of drug charges in North Carolina or is facing sentencing, let one of Charlotte's most respected law firms ensure a fair and just process. Call The Law Offices of Jason H. Reece in Charlotte at 704-714-8888 or fill out this contact form for a free consultation.