Monday, October 3, 2022

Medical pot proposal gets bipartisan support in NC Senate

RALEIGH, NC ( Associated Press) — Marijuana will be legalized for medical use in North Carolina with a prescription and purchased through dozens of tightly regulated dispensaries in a measure that won preliminary approval Thursday in the Senate.

The law, which has received strong bipartisan support, could help people facing more than a dozen different “debilitating medical conditions” in which their doctors declare the health benefits of smoking or using cannabis.

The main sponsors of the bill, however, focused on providing relief to patients suffering from incurable diseases that bring unbearable pain and suffering, while preventing them from acting illegally.

“It is our duty as lawmakers to pass laws that help those in need of our help,” said Brunswick County Republican Sen. Bill Rabon, who has been a cancer survivor, Brunswick County Republican Sen. Worked on the law for five years. “It’s not going to make them feel embarrassed or reluctant to seek help if it’s been recommended to them by their physician.”

Seventeen of the 25 Republicans and all but two Democrats voted on Thursday for the bill, which passed 35-10 and needs another affirmative vote next week before it enters the House.

Many House Republicans have been skeptical about legalizing cannabis in any form. Speaker Tim Moore said Thursday that he believes medical marijuana will have to wait until 2023. Legislative leaders aim to postpone this year’s business session to around July 1.

Still, the Senate’s affirmative vote, which included Chamber Leader Phil Berger’s “yes,” shows just how far political and public sentiment has come in the Bible Belt state on medical marijuana. Rabon has said that polls show that support for the idea is strong across all population groups, including evangelical Christians.

The bill worked its way through several committees last summer. before resurfacing this week, Senators have heard from passionate speakers Those with severe illness say marijuana can ease pain or help them lead more normal lives.

According to the National Convention of State Legislatures, thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia allow the medical use of cannabis products.

“The time for action in North Carolina is now,” said Wake County Democratic Sen. Willie Nickel, who recalled how his father used marijuana illegally three decades ago as he was dying of cancer. Were. Marijuana for recreational use will remain illegal.

Bill opponents have said the health benefits of marijuana are uncertain and the health risks are too great.

“We spent billions of dollars … to get people to stop smoking[and]now we’re voting on a new version of Big Tobacco,” said Harnett County Republican Sen. Jim Bergin, who did not vote.

Under the bill, other qualifying conditions that could lead to legal marijuana access include epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, HIV/AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and post-traumatic stress disorder. An advisory board can add to that list. Physicians must initially receive 10 hours of training in order to offer cannabis prescriptions.

A new Medical Cannabis Production Commission will license 10 entities that will grow, process and sell cannabis.

Each licensee can open up to eight medical cannabis centers across the state. They can sell a 30-day supply of marijuana or cannabis-infused products to patients or their caregivers, who must obtain a registration card from the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. Licensees will have to remit 10% of their monthly revenue to the state.

If marijuana is sold illegally in cannabis centers or production facilities, people may face a felony. Registered patients who drink pot in public or near a school or church may face a $25 fine.

Buncombe County Sen. Julie Mayfield offered a floor amendment that would have directed the commission to recommend a system she said would help the state’s producers and retailers participate.

The language in the measure would otherwise leave licenses to multistate corporations, she said, leaving small businesses on edge. Republicans used a parliamentary maneuver to derail a vote on the amendment. Mayfield was one of two Democrats to vote against the full bill on Thursday.

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