Is North Carolina Poised to Be the Next State to Legalize Medical Cannabis?

Is North Carolina Poised to Be the Next State to Legalize Medical Cannabis?

June 15, 2022 0 By Lissette Graham

For those who do not know this is 2022, the year of cannabis. The world of cannabis has never seen a better time in terms of legalization as open markets are being set up in different regions. North Carolina looks set to be the next in the line of states in the United States approving medical marijuana. The Senate of the state just gave the first approval to legalize medical marijuana in the state. This is good news for residents of the state and cannabis enthusiasts everywhere.

Read on as we take a closer look at the cannabis industry scene in the region, what we should expect from the bill and what it can accomplish in the state.

As stated earlier, the North Carolina Senate has just given first-stage approval for a bill to legalize medical marijuana in the state. This came just a day after the bill cleared a major committee of the Senate chaired by Sen. Bill Rabon (R) who also doubles as the sponsor of the bill. On getting to the chamber, the bill got immense support on the second reading as 35 voted in favor against 10 who opposed.

The sponsor of the bill said on the floor of the Senate before the vote that this bill will aid many people at the end of their life which is a time when they need compassion. He believes medical cannabis can help people in the few days or whatever time they have left to be as comfortable as they can be. These views were very personal to the senator who is also a survivor of cancer and can relate to medical patients needing comfort.

The bill is called the NC Compassionate Care Act and it has already cleared three different panels in 2021. Senator Rabon believes it is the duty of lawmakers to rubberstamp the bill and ensure it helps those in need. The bill only needs another vote of validation next week which will see it be sent formally to the House of Representatives for proper consideration.

When such bills surface, what the people want to know is what the bill will accomplish when passed. Well, the NC Compassionate Care Act much like other medical marijuana bills in other states will help many patients with debilitating health conditions. It also addresses the number of cannabis patients will be allowed to purchase as well as other issues such as cultivation and cannabis-infused product.

Here is the major targets points of the NC Compassionate Care Act as amended:

    • Access to cannabis will be granted to patients who have debilitating health conditions which include epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
    • Patients with terminal illnesses and less than 6 months to live and those requiring hospice care are also added to the list as amended by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
    • Home cultivation of cannabis is completely prohibited but patients are allowed to have up to one and a half-ounce of cannabis.
    • The bill also saw the definition of “cannabis-infused” product change to the more recent version. This version sees the cannabis-infused product as a tablet, capsule, concentrated oil, suspension, preparation, resin or wax”.
    • Vaping and smoking cannabis are allowed. Doctors are however required to prescribe a specific mode of use and dose for patients under the amended legislation.
    • Eligibility of patients will be assessed and evaluated for the program minimum of once a year.
    • A Compassionate Use Advisory Board will be set up to add new medical conditions to qualify patients.
    • A Medical Cannabis Production Commission will also be created to ensure an adequate supply of cannabis for patients. The committee will also be saddled with the responsibility of generating revenue to oversee the program and issue licenses.
    • A North Carolina Cannabis Research Program will be established to undertake objective, scientific research on the administration of cannabis and cannabis-infused products.
    • The amended bill also offers further protection for patients as agents of the state are required to handle cannabis as a prescribed controlled substance for qualified patients.
    • Limitations of the bill include where marijuana can be smoked, the operating hours of medical cannabis businesses, the location of the businesses, and the number of certifications a physician can give per time.

These are only some of the present revisions of the bill and many advocates are still hoping and pushing for expansion of the program towards ensuring social equity.

Senator Rabon was the first to offer an amendment to the bill on the floor of the Senate before voting on Thursday. A significant change offered was to allow 10 licensed marijuana suppliers to operate up to 8 dispensaries. This is an upgrade to the maximum of four dispensaries that was on the cards in other versions of the bill. The changes offered also clarified other issues around fees, reporting requirements, conflicting interests for physicians, and other technical corrections.

While many are still waiting for the medical ship for the marijuana bill to come to life, others are already looking beyond. A poll done by the Carolina Partnership for Reform shows that 82 percent of voters in North Carolina want the legalization of medical marijuana in the state. This composition also includes 86 percent of Democrats and 75 percent of Republicans. Surprisingly, 60 percent of the voters also back the legalization of recreational use of cannabis in the state.

These present figures are an improvement from the results of the same question when asked earlier in the year. Presently, three in four persons in the state believe patients should have access to medical marijuana as needed. This creates an ideal situation to see proper incorporation of medical marijuana in the state. For now, all that can be done is to wait to see the outcome of the final vote on the bill in the Senate after which other needed acts will follow.