North Carolina Semat moves forward on medical marijuana

Bipartisan North Carolina Senate Committee Moves on Medical Marijuana

During a committee meeting about a pending medical marijuana bill, North Carolina senators told their colleagues the measure was strict and enforceable while still allowing real patients the opportunity to use medical marijuana in the state.

“The purpose of this act is to carefully regulate the use of medical cannabis as a treatment of debilitating diseases,” bill sponsor and longtime Republican Sen. Bill Rabon said during a hearing held by the North Carolina Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday.

“I know how rough it is to go through chemo,” Rabon, a cancer survivor himself, told Raleigh Fox 8 News.

He reiterated that the bill was created totally out of compassion, not to legalize a substance now federally illegal.

“I think there’s nothing less compassionate on this Earth than to watch a person you love suffer when there’s something that can ameliorate at least that suffering.”

Sen. Bill Rabon

Polls continue to show majority voter support for marijuana legalization for adults, but so far North Carolina has only decriminalized cannabis possession and has no medical program. In 2019, a bill to change that was introduced and carried over into 2020, but it was not given a committee hearing or a vote before the session was closed, again, due to coronavirus.

At this point 36 states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes, and Democratic Sen. Wiley Nikel, whose father died of cancer, said it’s time for North Carolina to get serious and pass this legislation to help those in need.

“The time has come for medical marijuana in North Carolina,” he tweeted.

The bill calls for a commission to set up a workable program for medical patients. It would only allow several “debilitating medical conditions” to obtain a card, and the patients’ caregivers also would have to be registered. Conditions would include cancer, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, Crohn’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder and multiple sclerosis.

Doctors would also be required to declare in writing the potential health benefits of cannabis use for a patient outweigh the risks. Recreational use of pot would remain illegal.

A procedural Senate rule stopped a full vote on the proposal. If it ultimately is approved by the Judiciary Committee, the bill must also pass through at least three more committees before reaching the floor and a full vote in the House of Representatives.

Democratic state Sen. Natasha Marcus admitted on Twitter she was surprised at the progress.

“Packed committee room today with speakers supporting medical marijuana. (Some opposed too, unfortunately.) I hope we can quit making caretakers, veterans and cancer patients criminals when they are desperate for help for their medical conditions,” she wrote.

Committee members expressed confidence that the time might finally be right for passage of a bill like this.

“In Judiciary committee right now and we’re hearing a medical cannabis bill,” said Democratic Sen. Jeff Jackson on Twitter. “This was a surprise. Farthest this kind of legislation has ever gone in our state legislature. Hearing lots of skepticism from GOP members, but also genuine openness.” 

Sen. Nickel summed up the bill’s chances.

“I’ve authored bills for less strict medical marijuana and recreational use,” he said. “This is a Republican supported bill that actually has a small chance to become law.”

This piece was originally published by Marijuana Moment and has been edited or modified by The News Station.

Leland Rucker is a journalist who has been covering the cannabis industry culture since Amendment 64 legalized adult-use in Colorado, for Boulder Weekly, Sensi and now TheNewsStation.com. His full bio is here.

Leland Rucker is a journalist who has been covering the cannabis industry culture since Amendment 64 legalized adult-use in Colorado, for Boulder Weekly, Sensi and now TheNewsStation.com. His full bio is here.

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