Legislation authorizing marijuana for medical use in North Carolina and developing a system to grow, sell and regulate cannabis was recommended by a state Senate committee Wednesday, nine months after it last surfaced.
The measure, which now heads to the Senate floor for the first of two required votes Thursday, would allow patients with at least one of the more than a dozen “debilitating medical conditions” to purchase and use marijuana with their physician’s formal approval. Those conditions would include cancer, epilepsy, Crohn’s disease and post-traumatic stress disorder. The bill envisions several dozen medical cannabis centers across the state operated by 10 state-licensed growers and vendors. They could sell up to 30-day supplies of pot or cannabis-infused products to patients or their caregivers, who would have to obtain registration cards from the state Department of Health and Human Services. Ten percent of the cannabis suppliers’ monthly revenues would be forwarded to the state.
The legislation idled in the Senate since last August after advancing through three policy committees. Brunswick County Republican Sen. Bill Rabon, chief bill sponsor and a cancer survivor, said the measure was never on a fast track, adding that he wanted to ensure all of his colleagues’ questions were answered to build bipartisan support.
Bill supporters have included war veterans and others with severe illness who say marijuana can ease pain or help them lead more normal lives.
The bill is designed to “give the citizens of this state who need and deserve compassionate care just that,” Rabon said during debate in the Senate Rules Committee, which he chairs. “It is nothing more than trying to help those people with the care that they need and augment their treatments.”
Senate leader Phil Berger said Tuesday that he planned to support the bill on the chamber floor. The bill, if approved by the full Senate, would then go to the House, where Speaker Tim Moore said he didn’t expect medical marijuana to be discussed until 2023. That would mean new legislation would have to be filed.
Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia allow the medical use of cannabis products, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Conservative Christian groups remain opposed to the measure and their representatives spoke against the bill in the committee.
“We all want to be compassionate and help people in need,” said Jere Royall with the North Carolina Family Policy Council. But he said several medical associations still don’t support the medical use of marijuana and research shows significant health risks remain.