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Republican-Led Bill to Legalize Medical Marijuana in North Carolina

marijuana in North Carolina
Written by Sarah Friedman
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When looking across the US, the more liberal states have more liberal policies when it comes to cannabis, and the more conservative states have more conservative policies. At least that’s how it usually is. Which is what makes the republican-led effort to legalize medical marijuana in North Carolina so striking. The question is, will the bill pass?

It’s pretty exciting that the world has changed enough for republicans to push a medical marijuana legalization in North Carolina. This just reinforces that the US is the new weed capital of the world. And rightly so, as all the best products come from the States. Like delta-8 THC, an alternate form of THC which produces slightly less psychoactive effect, without the anxiety, cloudy-head, or couch locking of delta-9. You can check out our deals for Delta-8 THC, along with many other compounds, such as Delta 9 THCDelta 10THCPTHCVHHC and even THC-Owhich exemplify just how far ahead the US is in the world of marijuana.

Cannabis and North Carolina

North Carolina doesn’t sit in the deep south, but it is a southern state, and acts like one when it comes to cannabis. Although having said that, it has both very strict, and some, not-so-strict aspects to its current law. Cannabis is illegal for all purposes in North Carolina at the moment, which actually puts it in the minority, at this point. There is very limited medical use, and only with CBD, as per law HB766, which was signed off on in 2015. According to the state policy, this was only for patients with intractable epilepsy.

This paltry legalization came not long after an attempt for a medical bill in 2014. That bill died by way of the House Committee in early 2015, and at that time, the House Committee did something which seems like a major overstep. It put out an ‘unfavorable report’, which kept the House from considering any kind of medical marijuana bill for two years after. Of course, that two years ended a few years back, making it possible now to try another bill.

On the other end, North Carolina actually does have a decriminalization policy. Back in the late 70’s, there was a rush of decriminalization efforts for cannabis in the US, and North Carolina was one of the states to adopt a policy. In 1977, the state decriminalized up to 1/2 ounce with a fine of $200 only.

medical marijuana legalization

To give an idea of what North Carolinians think of cannabis, in an Elon poll of 1,455 people from January 2021 concerning opinions about cannabis, a 54% majority answered that cannabis should be legalized for adult recreational use, and a vast majority of 73% answered that it should be legal for medical use.

Clearly, legislators in the state are behind, and seeing the opinions of the residents makes clear why republicans looking to maintain their seats, would introduce such a bill. In April of this year, current Senate president, Republican Phil Berger, said: “Public opinion is changing” about cannabis, and at that time gave an indication that the state Congress might consider a medical marijuana legalization for North Carolina, which it’s doing now.

Bill to legalize medical marijuana in North Carolina

This latest attempt to legalize medical marijuana in North Carolina stands out in that the entire initiative is being led by republicans, which isn’t standard for this kind of bill. Although, to be fair, main sponsor Republican Sen. Bill Rabon has already stated the bill, should it pass, will be the strictest medical marijuana policy in the US. He stated: “The purpose of this act is to carefully regulate the use of medical cannabis as a treatment of debilitating diseases.”

The bill, SB 711, also called the N.C. Compassionate Care Act, has so far passed several committees in the Senate, including a second vote in the Judiciary Committee, which happened August 24th, and a second vote in the Health Care Committee on August 26th. The whole process seemed doubtful at the start, as the General Assembly in North Carolina is republican held, however, being sponsored by a republican has probably been very helpful, and led a variety of conservatives to vote for it.

There is still plenty of resistance from social conservatives who still disapprove of the legalization of marijuana in any capacity. That it has continued to pass committee after committee is an indication that enough republicans are on board that it can actually make it through. One of the complaints (or, rather, fears), is that the opening of dispensaries will lead to full a legalization.

Upon hearing the horror stories of patients and their medical predicaments, as they testified before the Health Care Committee on August 26th, Republican Sen. Ralph Hise claimed that people looking to legalize marijuana, “use those who are suffering from these serious diseases to further their agenda.” Of course, it was the sick people themselves begging for help, not activists. Could it get any colder or more clueless than that? Remember, this guy is fine with doling out opioids.

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What does the bill allow for?

The medical marijuana bill for North Carolina would essentially expand the category for those eligible for cannabis treatments, including the following medical issues: cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, PTSD and multiple sclerosis. Prescriptions would be handed out by doctors, and a new committee in the Department of Health and Human Services would provide licensing for enterprises that can run dispensaries, with each one being able to run up to four. The allotment would be for 10 different enterprises to run them.

On the 26th, amendments were put on the bill, like that dispensary workers must be at least 21 years old, that dispensaries can only operate between 7am-7pm, and that all dispensaries must be no closer than 1,000 feet to schools, churches, public universities, community colleges, and facilities for children. In order to be a supplier, the licensing fee was set at $50,000, with a yearly renewal rate of $10,000. Some say this amount is too low, and that a specific provision should be put in to disallow the reselling of licenses.

The bill also states that prescribing doctors must have 10 hours of training on medical marijuana. Some advocates say the bill is not expansive enough, and cite issues like opioid addiction, that they believe should be added to the ‘debilitating medical conditions’ list. Indeed, even chronic pain, itself, is not on the list, meaning in North Carolina, it’s still thought of as more preferable to put people on opioids, than on a non-addictive and healthy option, like cannabis.

I do think that progress is progress, and for a state with no legal allowance for cannabis, it’s a step in the right direction. Of course, what’s more profoundly interesting about this bill to legalize medical marijuana in North Carolina, is that its being pushed by republicans.

Will it pass?

The next stop for The Compassionate Care Act is to go before one more Senate committee before making it to the Senate floor for a full vote. In order for it to actually become law, it must pass a vote by the entire Senate, then the House, and then be approved by the governor. To give an idea of how likely it is to pass this last committee vote, the committee in question, the Senate Rules and Operations Committee, happens to be the committee that bill sponsor Bill Rabon chairs, meaning its very likely to be on the Senate floor by sometime next week.

Medical cannabis is already legal in 37 states, which is well over half of the US states, and legal for recreational use in 18. These medical legalizations only include states with full medical bills, not minor allowances like what is legal right now in North Carolina, as nearly every state actually does provide something. If this medical marijuana bill passes in North Carolina, the state certainly won’t be the last state to fall, but it’s still far behind more liberal locations.

medical marijuana north carolina

Detractors of the bill who fear that this will incite a full legalization, are absolutely correct. It probably will, because that’s the direction we’re going in. If the Elon poll can be counted on at all, North Carolina is already waiting for the next part, before the medical legalization has gone through. Lawmakers really won’t have a choice soon, too many people want it.

Conclusion

The most exciting part of this bill is that it shows how even in the south, and other republican held states, the population is shifting views, which is literally forcing conservative lawmakers to bite down and support bills they probably wouldn’t, if they didn’t feel the tide turning. And their ability to stay in office compromised.

But that’s what is happening. And that makes North Carolina a huge indication of what’s to come. One by one states will drop, because that’s what the population wants.

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DisclaimerHi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advise, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.

About the author

Sarah Friedman

I am a US born writer, travelling the world and doing the digital nomad thing.

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