We’ve come far enough as a country in such a relatively short amount of time that even some North Carolina Republicans are now in favor of legalizing cannabis for medical purposes.
The N.C. Compassionate Care Act, or Senate Bill 3, has two Republican primary sponsors (Sens. Bill Rabon and Michael Lee) and one Democratic primary sponsor (Sen. Paul Lowe).
The same bill was introduced in the 2021-2022 session. The sixth edition of the bill was referred to the Committee on Rules, Calendar, and Operations of the House on June 8, 2022, where it died.
Senate Bill 3 was one of the first bills to be filed in the legislature this January.
Thanks to the 2018 farm bill, hemp-derived products containing very minimal levels of THC are already legal in North Carolina, Abby Nauffts, manager of Redhead Hemp, told WRAL.
“The reason our store is able to sell the products we do is thanks to the 2018 farm bill. Anything hemp-derived is totally legal. That’s where Delta 8 comes from, as well as Delta 9, but ours is limited on how much we are able to put in,” Nauffts said. “It has to be below .3% on a dry-weight basis. As long as we stay below those limits, it’s totally legal to sell the same THC you would find anywhere else.”
If SB3 passes in the legislature, people with a very specific list of medical conditions could get prescribed medical cannabis.
The bill’s text highlights the following conditions where a patient would be allowed to get a prescription:
c. Positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
d. Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).
e. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
f. Crohn’s disease.
g. Sickle cell anemia.
h. Parkinson’s disease.
i. Post-traumatic stress disorder, subject to evidence that an applicant experienced one or more traumatic events. Acceptable evidence shall include, but is not limited to, proof of military service in an active combat zone, that the person was the victim of a violent or sexual crime, or that the person was a first responder. Details of the trauma shall not be required.
j. Multiple sclerosis.
k. Cachexia or wasting syndrome.
l. Severe or persistent nausea in a person who is not pregnant that is related to end-of-life or hospice care, or who is bedridden or homebound because of a condition.
m. A terminal illness when the patient’s remaining life expectancy is less than six months.
n. A condition resulting in the individual receiving hospice care.
o. Any other serious medical condition or its treatment added by the Compassionate Use Advisory Board, as provided for in G.S. 90-113.113.
Unfortunately, many of the conditions for which a patient would be able to take advantage of the many uses of medical cannabis are terminal illnesses or seriously debilitating conditions. This legislation will not be mistaken for a recreational bill.
Despite the restrictions, the passage of the bill would still help out many North Carolinians who could benefit from medical cannabis.
“I have a lot of veterans, a lot of people I know, who this could make a big difference in their life going forward,” Rep. Garland Pierce (D-Hoke) said.
There is bipartisan support for the bill (it passed the Senate in the 2021-2022 session), but there are still those out there who hope to see it fail.
One of those people is Sen. Jim Burgin (R-Harnett), who spoke against the bill in June 2022.
“I appreciate the sponsors’ desire to help those who are suffering with physical or mental health issues. Marijuana does not treat the ailment. it only masks the symptoms,” Burgin said at the time.
WRAL reached out to Burgin’s office numerous times asking for his thoughts on the bill’s reappearance. He told the TV station that “he didn’t think it would be fair to give a formal statement before the bill made it further through the process,” according to WRAL.
Only 13 states in the U.S., including North Carolina, do not have a medical cannabis program. South Dakota and Alabama both have programs, but they are not in operation yet.
Recreational cannabis is legal in 21 states and D.C. and should be the end goal of any movement to legalize marijuana here in North Carolina. Full legalization is the right path to take, but any sort of legalization is a good first step in North Carolina.