How To Read And Use Smoke The Vote

Our votes are our power - now you have another tool to guide you.

NC NORML is a non-partisan cannabis consumer advocacy organization. Constituent-initiated ballot measures are not legal in NC, therefore our only path to legalization is to vote for candidates who will champion cannabis legalization. Since many candidates/incumbents are reluctant to openly state their positions on legalization, we hope that Smoke the Vote is the key to help you learn about the people on your ballot!

North Carolina is a “purple” state with both conservative and liberal voters – yet as of 2017, 80% of North Carolinians polled supported the “legalization of marijuana* for medical purposes” (83% of Democrats, 83% of Independents, and 73% of Republicans).

Smoke the Vote (StV) was created by NORML as a repository for cannabis positions of those who are running to represent us. NORML chapters have access to Smoke the Vote and we are entering the information we have to make it more complete. We each have 1 US Representative, 1 US Senator, 1 NC Representative, and 1 NC Senator, with one or more candidates in opposition on our ballots. We are also voting for Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General, and they are also included in StV. 

When you pull up StV, you can opt to look at all North Carolina candidates by clicking on the state, or you can narrow the amount of information by entering your address/zip code or 9 digit zip code.

When your slate of candidates is displayed, select a candidate’s name to see why the candidate received their grade. If the candidate has a question mark beside their name, you can help by researching them – check out their campaign websites, look for interviews with them stating their positions on legalization, medical marijuana, and decriminalization. You can send that to us via the Constituent Insight Form: Be sure to include links, screenshots, or whatever you have documentedWe need all eyes and ears for the 170 races happening right now for NCGA!

It is very difficult to achieve a grade of A as you’ll see below. Grades for incumbents are based on bill sponsorship, votes, and public statements. All candidates for the NC General Assembly are rated based on the candidate’s responses to NC NORML’s 2020 Questionnaire (if completed), public statements and sponsorship of bills and votes on key bills if the candidate has previously held office. Our volunteers have been working overtime to ensure that grades are documentable and linked to votes, bill sponsorships, campaign websites and public statements in the media. 

NORML grading criteria:

An ‘A’ letter grade indicates that this candidate has publicly declared their support for ending prohibition of marijuana for adults and/or has cosponsored legislation to do so.

A ‘B’ letter grade indicates that this candidate supports the legalization of medical cannabis and/or decriminalization and/or has cosponsored legislation to do so, but not to end prohibition of marijuana for adults.

A ‘C’ letter grade indicates that this candidate has acknowledged that other states are moving forward with cannabis law reform policies without committing to reform, or has made contradictory position statements.

A ‘D’ letter grade indicates that this candidate has expressed no support for any significant marijuana law reform, though they may have cosponsored/voted for legislation for minor reform (CBD/hemp).

An ‘F’ letter grade indicates that this candidate has expressed opposition to marijuana law reform (medical use/decriminalization), though they may have voted for legislation for minor reform (CBD/hemp).


  • Most incumbents received a “D” rating because they have only supported minor reforms. 
  • Many of the incumbents who did sponsor/co-sponsor medical cannabis or decriminalization bills received a “B+” rating if they have not also spoken in support of adult-use legalization. 
  • A small number of incumbents and candidates received “A” ratings for open support of full legalization. 
  • Several incumbents/candidates have made contradictory statements which makes a rating difficult. As such, we have noted where the statements are at variance, and “split the difference” on their grade (example, if an incumbent/candidate has said they do support legalization of “medical marijuana” in one place and oppose it elsewhere, they will get a C grade rather than a B or F).

Voting Records:

The “Cannabis Conversation” in North Carolina was first broached in earnest in 1977, when the General Assembly elected to “decriminalize” possession of up to ½ ounce of marijuana*. 

The first “medical marijuana” study bill was introduced in 2001. Since that time, multiple medical cannabis and decriminalization bills have been introduced in the North Carolina legislature, but none have been voted on in either chamber (NC House and Senate). Between 2014 – 2019, four bills promoting minor reforms were passed by the legislature and enacted into law. A bill that addressed the disposition of CBD extracts also passed both houses and was enacted into law. Finally, a bill potentially expanding access to CBD extracts was voted on by the Senate but was not taken up by the House. The relevant bills we reviewed include:

HB1220-Hope 4 Haley and Friends – 2014 

HB766-Amend CBD Oil Statute – 2015

SB313-Industrial Hemp – 2015

HB992/SB77-Amend Industrial Hemp Definition – 2016

SB124-LEO Managed CBD Oil Drop Box – 2018

SB168-Expand Allowed Medical Uses/Cannabis Extract – 2019 (NC Senate Only)

NC NORML 2020 Questionnaire:

Before the March 2020 primaries, NC NORML emailed a questionnaire to every candidate with an available email address. We received about 60 responses to the following questions (many of the respondents were defeated in the primary election):

  1. Do you support prohibiting access to marijuana (cannabis) by persons younger than 21 years, unless for evidence-based medical applications prescribed by a healthcare provider and with parental consent?
  2. Research reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that states with legalized cannabis saw a reduction in opioid use and opioid overdose deaths. Would you consider legalizing medical cannabis as a strategy to reduce opioid use?
  3. According to the Cato Institute, North Carolina spent ~ $263.3 million in state and local dollars to enforce cannabis laws in 2016. Meanwhile, the American Journal of Drug Alcohol Abuse found that arrestees who tested positive for THC had low incidents of aggressive crime. Aggressive crimes were associated with self-reported use of alcohol. Would you consider decriminalizing possession of cannabis since its use results in less aggression than legal alcohol?
  4. A Mayo Clinic study has shown that cannabis has lower addiction rates than alcohol (Nicotine 32%; Heroin 23%; Cocaine 17%; Alcohol 15%; Cannabis 9%). Do you agree that adults should have the right to use cannabis?
  5. Contradicting the myth that cannabis is a gateway drug, the RAND Corporation reported in 2012 that the use of cocaine dropped 50% as cannabis use increased 40%. Cannabis is associated with lower use of hard drugs and is not a gateway drug. Would you consider legalizing adult use of cannabis? 
  6. Thank you for completing this questionnaire. If you would like to say more about your stance on changing NC law with respect to cannabis, you may do so here:

*Many activists use the scientific term cannabis, however, we use the terms interchangeably based on context (i.e. statute and study language)