Yo, what’s good, it’s your boy Dan, and let me tell you about the latest with North Carolina and medical marijuana. Last week, the first step towards legalizing medical marijuana was taken with a procedural vote in favor of a bill. This means we’re one step closer to getting this reform passed and sending it to the House. And get this, even though they opposed a similar bill last year, a top lawmaker in that chamber said they’re ready to pass it this session.
Sen. Bill Rabon (R) proposed the bill, and it easily passed through three committees before being approved on its second reading in the Senate by a vote of 36-10. We’re expecting it to be read a third time in the upcoming days, which will finally send it to the other chamber of the legislature.
So, what’s in the proposed law? People with qualifying illnesses like epilepsy, cancer, multiple sclerosis, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) would be able to possess and buy cannabis from authorized dispensaries.
Before the vote, Rabon stated on the floor that the bill “is not intended to change existing civil and criminal laws governing the use of cannabis for non-medical purposes” and that it “is only intended to make amendments to current North Carolina laws that are essential for protecting patients and their doctors from both civil and criminal penalties.” The speaker claimed that it would “enable for closely restricted use of medical marijuana solely by people with serious conditions.” Law enforcement will have access to records and databases needed to confirm patients’ eligibility and that suppliers are following the bill’s terms. “We have received significant input from law enforcement on the bill,” he added.
Last year’s version easily passed the Senate, and supporters are hopeful that this year’s proposal will do the same. However, how the Republican-controlled House will handle it is less certain. But House Speaker Tim Moore (R) believes there’s a chance of passing given the chamber’s new political makeup. He said, “I believe something has changed. We have a lot of new members,” adding that more than half of parliamentarians now support legalizing medical marijuana. “If that bill were to pass, I wouldn’t be at all shocked. The likelihood of something occurring on that, in my opinion, is more than zero.”
The proposed law would allow individuals with “debilitating medical conditions” such as HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder, epilepsy, and Parkinson’s disease to access cannabis. Smoking and vaping would still be permitted, but doctors would still have to give their patients specific instructions for delivery and dosing. Also, they would have to reassess the program’s eligibility for patients at least once a year.
Up to 10 medical marijuana suppliers can oversee the production and distribution of cannabis in the proposed law. Each supplier can run eight dispensaries, which is double the dispensary cap specified in the previous iteration. The proposed legislation would create a Compassionate Use Advisory Board, which would have the authority to include new qualifying medical conditions.
A separate Medical Marijuana Production Commission would be established to monitor licenses, ensure a sufficient supply of cannabis for patients, and provide enough money to manage the program. A North Carolina Cannabis Research Program would also be established as part of the legislation to “undertake objective, scientific study into the administration of cannabis or cannabis-infused products as part of medical therapy.”
According to a survey conducted last month, around three out of four North Carolinians support the legalization of medical marijuana. Governor Roy Cooper (D) stated in December that he believes a medical marijuana legalization measure “has an opportunity to pass” this year. He also reaffirmed his support for a more comprehensive decriminalization of cannabis possession, pointing out racial inequities in enforcement.
Currently, possession of more than half an ounce and up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis is a class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to 45 days in jail and a $200 fine. In 2019, there were 3,422 similar charges and 1,909 prosecutions, with non-White people making up 70% of those found guilty.
So, that’s where we’re at with medical marijuana in North Carolina. It’s been a long time coming, but it looks like we’re finally making progress towards compassionately helping those who need it most. Stay tuned for more updates on this dope topic.