The State of Cannabis Legislation & Licensing: North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida

Cannabis Business Licensing in North Carolina

2023 saw some big cannabis progress in some states, minimal progress in others and in a few states, hard stops and stalls. As a cannabis entrepreneur, it’s important to keep abreast of all the latest in cannabis business licensing and laws, even in states where you don’t currently live or operate. This is because in many cases, laws in one state follow laws in others. Additionally, if you plan to operate your business in more than one state, you need to know all applicable laws.

Read on to learn more about 2023 updates for the industry and news in cannabis business licensing in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

North Carolina Cannabis Business Licensing

Members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) voted recently to legalize recreational cannabis. However, it is unclear when these sales will begin. In a September 2023 election, tribal members approved a ballot measure allowing cannabis sales to all people 21 and older, regardless of tribal membership, by a margin of 70 percent against 30 percent. Although the referendum did not legalize cannabis automatically, tribal leaders have said they’ll follow voters’ lead when ultimately taking up the issue.

This process began with issuing the first medical marijuana patient cards. Neil Denman, executive director of the EBCI Cannabis Control Board (CCB), said at a Cherokee Police Commission meeting that of the 1,005 applications for registration cards received so far, the board approved 817. The remaining 129 were marked incomplete and 59 were denied for lack of a qualifying condition.

What remains is a timeline of when registered patients will be able to shop in the tribe’s dispensary, technically the only place within North Carolina where any form of cannabis is legal. This delay is due to transportation to the dispensary: Part of EBCI’s production procedure involves transporting medical marijuana along a short stretch of state-owned roadway, which Swain County officials have said is problematic as cannabis remains illegal in the state itself. Mike Parker, chairman of the EBCI Tribal Council, said “we haven’t been able to transport the product to the dispensary, is my understanding. We have no revenue because we haven’t been able to transport the product.”

For those outside of the EBCI land, North Carolina cannabis business licensing remains a long-term dream. A Senate-passed medical marijuana bill stalled in the House this session, the victim of an informal rule requiring bills heading to the floor to have support from the majority of the chamber’s Republican caucus.

Cannabis Business Licensing in South Carolina

2023 brought bad news for hopefuls for cannabis business licensing South Carolina. At January’s beginning of the legislative session, two bills to legalize medical marijuana were on the docket: the Patriots First Act and the Compassionate Care Act. Debates stalled both in a Senate subcommittee; therefore, no legalization will occur this year.

The Compassionate Care Act, which would make cannabis legal for certain residents with very specific medical conditions, progressed to the House floor in 2022, which is the furthest a cannabis-related bill has ever made it in South Carolina. Today, the bill sits in the Senate medical subcommittee. The governor is outwardly against cannabis, but has not completely closed the door for medical use, making this the best possible avenue for South Carolina cannabis business licensing.

Georgia Cannabis Business Licensing

Medical marijuana sales of low-THC oil (flower is banned) with up to five percent THC launched toward the end of October, but not in a way benefiting general Georgia cannabis business licensing. This is due to the sales only being allowed by law through independent pharmacies. Georgia is the first U.S. state to approve such a retail channel.

Cannabis access in Georgia will remain limited to physician-approved patients suffering from specific medical conditions such as Crohn’s disease, intractable pain, Epidermolysis bullosa, severe stages of cancer, AIDS, Parkinson’s disease and Sickle cell disease. Seven pharmacies are currently dispensing here.

Botanical Sciences and Trulieve Cannabis Corp. are the two production operators in possession of cannabis business licensing in Georgia. Patel’s Robins Pharmacy, located about an hour and a half outside of Atlanta, as well as two others in the region, Omega Pharmacy and the Allen Pharmacy Group, were the first to get state licenses to sell low-THC medical cannabis. “It’s great to be able to give them an alternative option than your normal traditional pharmaceuticals,” pharmacist Ankit Patel said.

Florida Cannabis Business Licensing

In early November 2023, the state Supreme Court heard arguments in a case to decide whether a marijuana legalization initiative can appear on the 2024 ballot. Briefs have been received by the court from both the state attorney general, who is challenging the measure and asking for its invalidation, and the Smart & Safe Florida campaign, which is behind the proposed reform. Attorney General Ashley Moody’s main argument is that the ballot initiative is affirmatively misleading, partly because she says voters would not understand from the summary that cannabis would remain federally illegal even if legalized by the state. Further, the state is taking issue with language about Florida cannabis business licensing, considering it to promote recreational sales without specifying that passed legislation is necessary first. Until this case is settled, legalization and cannabis business licensing in Florida remain on hold.

Get the Latest on Cannabis Business Licensing in Florida and Across the U.S. at CannaCon

Across the nation, cannabis business licensing and laws are continually in flux. What’s legal in one state might not be legal in another…and the rules for operating a business can be very different depending on where you’re located.

Stay up to date on the latest cannabis industry news by immersing yourself in the scene. The best way to do this is to attend B2B and B2C cannabis trade shows and events like CannaCon. CannaCon is the nation’s biggest B2B cannabis exposition, featuring hundreds of vendors and hosting thousands of attendees. Whether you’re a cannabis industry veteran or just starting out, CannaCon is the place to network, learn and grow in this rapidly developing industry. Get your tickets for CannaCon today!

This article was originally published on July 12, 2019. It was updated on Dec. 19, 2023.


  1. Sandra Kearse on March 24, 2021 at 11:01 am

    If I receive my license in South Carolina or North Carolina is it valid in either state or do I have to do individual applications?

    • Dave Carter on December 3, 2021 at 5:08 pm

      As a formerly licensed grower in NC (licenses have expired and we renew next year), I can say that you need a license per State to be legal. In some States you need a license for each location you grow. It pays to do a lot of research before committing big $ to any grow project. We learned this without too much pain and slowed our growth a bit. This enabled us to expand our CBD shop operations significantly in NC while preparing for the next wave of licensing requirements.

  2. Cherish Williamson on August 17, 2021 at 10:18 pm

    Do I need any specific license if my company just wants to sell legally?

Leave a Comment