Feb 21, 2023
North Carolina lawmakers take action on medical marijuana legalization
A North Carolina legislative committee on Tuesday approved a bill that would legalize medical marijuana in the state. The measure, known as the North Carolina Compassionate Care Act (Senate Bill 3), was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee with little debate among senators, according to media reports.The bipartisan bill was filed on January 25 with sponsorship from Republican Sens. Bill Rabon and Michael Lee and their Democratic colleague Sen. Paul Lowe. If passed, the bill would legalize the medicinal use of cannabis for patients with one or more specified qualifying serious medical conditions such as cancer, ALS, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder and others. Unlike the more comprehensive medical marijuana programs in many other states, however, the bill does not authorize the use of medical marijuana by patients living with chronic pain.
The sponsors of the bill note that the measure does not legalize recreational marijuana. Instead, the intent of the legislation “is to only make changes to existing state law that are necessary to protect patients and their doctors from criminal and civil penalties and would not intend to change current civil and criminal laws for the use of non-medical marijuana,” Rabon told reporters on Tuesday.
Under the bill, patients with a qualifying “debilitating medical condition” would be allowed access to medical cannabis. The bill permits the smoking and vaping of medical cannabis by patients whose doctors have recommended a specific form and dosage of medical marijuana. Physicians would be required to review a patient’s continued eligibility for the medical marijuana program annually.
Patients would be required to obtain a state medical marijuana identification card. The state Department of Health and Human Services would be tasked with creating “a secure, confidential, electronic database containing information about qualified patients, designated caregivers, and physicians,” according to the text of the measure.
Bill Creates Cannabis Advisory And Production Panels
The bill also creates an 11-member advisory panel appointed by the governor and lawmakers to review proposals for new qualifying medical conditions. Additionally, the legislation establishes a Medical Cannabis Production Commission to oversee medical cannabis producers and ensure a sufficient supply of medical marijuana is produced for the state’s registered patients.
North Carolina is one of the few states that have not yet legalized medical marijuana. Kevin Caldwell, the Southeast legislative manager for the cannabis policy reform group the Marijuana Policy Project, said that the proposal to legalize medical marijuana in North Carolina is modest compared to the medicinal cannabis programs approved by many states.
“It has a very limited number of ailments covered. It would create a commission that would add or delete conditions at the will of the commission,” Caldwell said. “We just hope that the legislature listens to what the people of NC want and provide this medicine.”
“This is not a partisan issue or it shouldn’t be,” added Caldwell. “We see medical cannabis in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, LA, Arkansas and these are conservative states moving forward with medical cannabis programs.”
Cannabis advocates believe that the bill is likely to gain approval in the North Carolina Senate, where two more legislative committees are slated to consider the measure. Confidence isn’t as high for success in the state Republican-controlled House of Representatives, according to a report from cannabis news source Marijuana Moment. But in a recent interview, Republican House Speaker Tim Moore said that the political climate for the new legislative session could be more conducive to reform than in previous years.
“I think there’s been a change. We have a lot of new members,” Moore said, adding that he believes a majority of state lawmakers now support legalizing the medical use of cannabis. “I would not be surprised at all if that bill moved. I think the odds are more likely than not that something will happen on that.”