What The Heck Is A Dillon Rule State and Why Does It Matter?

North Carolina is a Dillon Rule State (as opposed to a Home Rule State).  This means that the power for making laws rests with the NC General Assembly, unless explicitly granted to municipalities. 

One way this plays out is in the lack of a Citizen-Initiated Ballot Measure option which was the path for many legal states.  Does that leave us with no options to legalize?  Absolutely not!  Of course, you cannot ignore your legislators, but there is still plenty of progress that we can make in the meantime.  These can have tangible effects to reduce the number of people who become justice involved for cannabis.

Here are a few to consider:

ResolutionsHere at NC NORML, we have developed a resolution calling for an end to enforcement that you can take to your city/town, county, political parties, etc. to pass.  While resolutions are non-binding (unenforceable), but by getting this before any audience, you are elevating the conversation and providing valuable education to anyone who happens to be in the audience.  Email or call your commissioners/councilors/alderpersons to begin meeting with them individually to gather their opinions, help fill any gaps in their knowledge with data from the fact sheets at www.norml.org or from other reliable sources.  As the conversations progress, you can find a champion on the board willing to introduce the resolution as well as learn about leaders for local organizations that might allow you to present. Our friends in New Bern are doing this as we speak.  Various boards handle resolutions in different ways. In New Bern, the first step is a (preferably coordinated) public comment which enables an issue to be taken up by the board. This will be happening on Oct 8th! We’re looking forward to reporting back on the progress.  

Other opportunities exist within Prosecution and Law Enforcement.  Durham County elected a reform-minded Sheriff and District Attorney to make positive changes.  https://tinyurl.com/DurhamPlans

  1. Prosecutorial Discretion – Get to know your county District Attorney and other prosecutors.  Discuss ways to reduce or eliminate the charges filed for cannabis, preferably in the pre-filing process.

  2. Lowest Level Enforcement Priority – City and County law enforcement also have a lot of discretion in what they choose to enforce.  Get to know your Sheriff or other contacts in the departments. Gauge their sentiments on whether cannabis is a worthy diversion from other, serious enforcement and protection duties.

If you aren’t able to make progress with those currently in office, you can work to replace them reformers next month and in 2020, depending on your municipal election cycles.


  1. Establish a relationship with at least one city council/alder/commission member, prosecutor, sheriff and get the conversations rolling! 

  2. NC NORML is firing on all cylinders like never before.  We are now one, statewide organization and are excited to tell you what we’ve been up to and to answer any questions you may have.  Find us livestreaming on YouTube 10/10 at 7PM for our first ever monthly public “NC NORML Board Chat”! If you aren’t available in real time, you can always watch the replay later. 

  3. Find out more about what’s happening in New Bern, check out our Facebook post about the action. 

As always:

  • If you aren’t on our email list or have friends, family, and neighbors who aren’t, sign up at https://tinyurl.com/NCNORMLInterest (NOTE: If you already completed the form and didn’t know who your reps were or their positions, you can re-submit it.  We will take care of cleaning up duplicates.)

  • You can also stay up-to-date by following NC NORML on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

  • Help spread the word by sharing these weekly actions!