Smokable hemp looks like pot — as well it should, because both derive from the cannabis plant. It smells like pot, though perhaps not quite as pungent as some of the more popular strains. And it even tastes like pot, sorta.

But it’s not pot, despite what the North Carolina Legislature decrees in SB 352, which attempts to conflate the wacky weed with its considerably more square cousin.

When we last checked in on the legislature’s pot party, the House had finally come to see the health benefits of CBD, an extract of cannabis bereft of its intoxicating properties, with less than 1 percent THC. And a new agricultural bill had allowed for the legions of North Carolina farmers — underutilized in these waning days of tobacco consumption — to grow industrial hemp, provided they had not had any drug charges in the last 10 years.

North Carolina has become one of the Top 5 hemp-growing states in the country.

Remember, industrial hemp is used for rope, textiles, plastics, paper and even fuel. It’s where CBD comes from. And it does not get you high. Still, some people want to smoke it.

And therein lies the problem.

While the legislature has allowed for items like CBD oil and other derivatives, a new bill coming through the legislature specifically targets smokable hemp, which, it should be repeated, is just a plant that does not get you high.

Under SB 352, smokable hemp magically becomes the same exact thing as actual marijuana: defined as a controlled substance and carrying all the same penalties.

The problem is not that lawmakers fundamentally misunderstand the properties of hemp, it’s that they don’t know how police would be able to tell the difference, it would put all those drug-sniffing dogs out of work and eliminate the smell of marijuana smoke as a probable cause for search and, possibly, seizure.

But that’s not the way it works, is it?

Smokable hemp is legal, according to federal statutes passed last year. And the state doesn’t get to ban something just because they can’t figure out how to enforce it, or because it’s a jobs program for dogs.

Nobody who lives here expects North Carolina to be at the forefront of… anything these days, let alone repeal of marijuana prohibition. But it’s one thing not to move forward, and quite another to go in reverse.

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