A bill in the North Carolina State Senate has just been cleared by the State Senate Judiciary Committee. If it becomes law, medical cannabis could become legal in the state.
State Senate Bill 711, or the NC Compassionate Care Act, is the state’s newest attempt. North Carolina is one of the few remaining states in the United States that doesn’t even have at least one medical program.
On July 21, the bill passed the Judiciary Committee and was referred to the Senate Health Committee. It was then removed from that committee and sent back to the Justice Committee on August 4 for further additions and technical changes requested by the NC Department of Health and Human Services.
The bill is sponsored by Bill Rabon, a Republican from Braunschweig. Some of the changes made are also based on regulations passed in Utah on a similar bill. Revisions include the addition of a new category for people with terminal illnesses who live less than six months, a ban on smoking or vaping in schools, workplaces or places of worship, an identification program for those prescribed medicinal cannabis, and certain opening times for pharmacies.
However, the bill does not yet have a clear and clear path. The Senate Health Committee will be tough to pass, and the House of Representatives is expected to face some headwind as well.
North Carolina prevails
However, analysts see the bill as having a good chance of clarifying the Senate, as Rabon is also chairman of the rules and operations committee. Senators Paul Lowe, D-Forsyth and Michael Lee, R-New Hanover, are also sponsoring the bill.
If passed, the bill would be funded by license fees and a monthly fee equal to 10 percent of gross cannabis sales. This would be different than in other constitutional states.
“There really is no forecast of how many North Carolinians will be eligible, and there is no best practice legislation to look at,” said Lee. “As soon as we have determined how many people actually have the conditions stated in the invoice, we can determine costs and revenues.”
Proponents of the bill claim that it should be passed as it is still very restrictive and therefore shouldn’t raise alarms for those who are nervous about the legalization. Senator Wally Nickel, D-Wake, called it “the most conservative and restrictive medical marijuana law in the country.”
“This bill is closely tailored to provide medical marijuana to people with legitimate medical needs,” Nickel said.
To aid its passage, the bill also states that “Modern medical research has found that cannabis and cannabinoid compounds are effective in relieving pain, nausea, and other symptoms associated with several debilitating diseases.”
Despite everything, some still have reservations about medical legalization. Reverend Mark Creech of the Christian Action League claims that marijuana should be taxed similar to tobacco and alcohol, rather than as a prescription drug. He is concerned about a black market emerging from the legal medical cannabis centers.
But Rabon, a Republican and cancer survivor, disagrees. And Lee, who does not support recreational cannabis, also supports the case for the need for a medical market.
“Recreational marijuana use is not something we want in our state,” Lee said.
“We found that it worked well for some states while it was just a recreational product for others,” Lowe said of the bill. “That is not the goal with this particular bill in our state.”
The bill was also amended to reduce the number of medical centers from eight to four to further control the industry. If this law is passed it will still be very restrictive, but there will finally be some relief in sight for cannabis patients.