Growing Cannabis in North Carolina

The cultivation of cannabis in North Carolina, as in many other states in the US, is subject to a unique set of climatic, legal, and cultural conditions. Historically, North Carolina has had a complex relationship with cannabis, and over the years, its legal status and public perception have shifted. This article provides an overview of the history, current legal framework, and best practices for growing cannabis in North Carolina.

Historical Context

Cannabis has a long history in the United States, with its cultivation dating back to colonial times. In North Carolina, hemp, a non-intoxicating variant of the cannabis plant, was grown extensively in the 18th and 19th centuries for its fibrous stalks, which were used to make rope, cloth, and other goods. However, by the early 20th century, concerns about the psychoactive properties of another cannabis variant, marijuana, led to increasing regulation and eventual criminalization.

It was not until the late 20th and early 21st century that significant movements began to push for the medical and recreational use of marijuana, leading to a reconsideration of its legal status in many states, including North Carolina.

Legal Framework

As of the last update in 2021, North Carolina has not fully legalized recreational cannabis use. However, there have been efforts to decriminalize small possession amounts and significant pushes towards the legalization of medical marijuana.

It’s essential for potential growers to understand the current legal status:

  • Personal Use: Possession of small amounts for personal use has been decriminalized, meaning that while still illegal, it does not lead to jail time but can result in a fine.
  • Medical Use: While there have been multiple efforts and bills presented to legalize medical cannabis in North Carolina, as of 2021, none have been successful in fully establishing a medical cannabis program. There’s a limited allowance for CBD oil with low THC content for specific medical conditions.
  • Cultivation: Unauthorized cultivation remains illegal. Those caught growing cannabis without appropriate permissions can face severe penalties, including incarceration and fines.

It’s imperative to stay updated on the legal status, as cannabis laws have been rapidly changing across the US.

Climatic Considerations for Cultivation

If and when cultivation becomes legal, understanding North Carolina’s climate will be crucial for success. North Carolina has a humid subtropical climate, characterized by mild winters and hot, humid summers.

Optimal Growing Seasons: The best time to plant cannabis outdoors in North Carolina is in the late spring, after the last frost, typically in early to mid-May. Harvesting usually occurs in late September to early October before the first frost.

Rainfall: While North Carolina receives ample rainfall, growers should be aware of potential overwatering, especially during the hurricane season. Proper drainage and monitoring of soil moisture are essential.

Temperature: Cannabis plants generally thrive in temperatures between 70-85°F (21-30°C). During the hot and humid summers, growers should monitor plants for heat stress and ensure they receive adequate water.

Pests and Diseases: Given the state’s high humidity, cannabis plants in North Carolina are susceptible to mold, mildew, and certain pests like spider mites. Regularly inspecting plants, ensuring good airflow, and using organic preventive treatments can mitigate these risks.

Strain Selection

When considering which cannabis strains to cultivate, one must consider North Carolina’s specific climate and environmental conditions. Strains that can handle high humidity, such as those originating from tropical or subtropical regions, are ideal.

Some suitable strains for North Carolina’s conditions might include:

  • Durban Poison: A classic sativa strain that’s resistant to various molds and mildews.
  • Blue Dream: A popular hybrid that’s both mold-resistant and produces high yields.
  • Pineapple Express: Another hybrid known for its resistance to disease and pests.

Of course, strain selection will also depend on personal preferences concerning flavor, potency, and effects.

Indoor vs. Outdoor Growing

When cultivation becomes legal in North Carolina, growers will need to decide between indoor and outdoor growing. Each has its pros and cons:

Indoor Growing

  • Advantages: Controlled environment, year-round cultivation, protection from pests and adverse weather.
  • Disadvantages: High setup costs, continuous energy consumption, and the need for consistent monitoring.

Outdoor Growing

  • Advantages: Lower costs, natural sunlight, larger yields per plant.
  • Disadvantages: Exposure to pests, weather inconsistencies, and potential theft or vandalism.


While cannabis cultivation is not yet fully legalized in North Carolina, understanding the state’s history, legal framework, climate, and other factors will be essential for prospective growers. As with any endeavor, education, preparedness, and adaptability will be the keys to success.