The North Carolina General Assembly will once again play host to a debate over medical cannabis legalization, as supporters hope the 2023 session turns out better than last year.
Local news station WNCN reports that a “bipartisan group in the state Senate is trying again this year to pass a bill legalizing medical marijuana, as new polling this week shows popular support,” and that, on Wednesday, the state Senate Judiciary Committee discussed the proposal, “which is largely similar to a bill the chamber passed last year but that the House never considered.”
“There’s hardly a family in this state or in this nation that hasn’t been touched at some point by someone who would benefit from this bill,” said Republican Sen. Bill Rabon, a sponsor of the measure, as quoted by WNCN.
The bill, titled the “North Carolina Compassionate Care Act,” would make medical cannabis treatment available to patients with the following qualifying conditions: “Cancer; Epilepsy; Positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDs); Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); Crohn’s disease; Sickle cell anemia; Parkinson’s disease; Post-traumatic stress disorder … Multiple sclerosis; Cachexia or wasting syndrome; 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; A terminal illness when the patient’s remaining life expectancy is less than six months; [or] A condition resulting in the individual receiving hospice care.”
Patients who have “experienced one or more traumatic events” may also qualify for the treatment, per the language of the bill, which says that “[a]cceptable 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.”
The bill says that details of the trauma “shall not be required.”
Republicans hold majorities in both the state Senate and House of Representatives. Last year, a virtually identical medical cannabis legalization bill passed out of the state Senate, but ultimately failed to advance out of the state House.
North Carolina is one of the few remaining states where both medical and recreational pot are still illegal.
The state’s Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, has expressed his support for both.
“Conviction of simple possession can mar people’s records for life and maybe even prevent them from getting a job,” Cooper said in October, following President Joe Biden’s decision to pardon individuals with federal convictions of simple marijuana possession.
In his announcement at the time, Biden urged “all Governors to do the same with regard to state offenses.”
“As I often said during my campaign for President, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana. Sending people to prison for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives and incarcerated people for conduct that many states no longer prohibit. Criminal records for marijuana possession have also imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities. And while white and Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates,” Biden said in a statement at the time.
Cooper echoed the president’s sentiments.
“North Carolina should take steps to end this stigma,” Cooper said.
There is reason to believe that voters in the Tar Heel State are ready for lawmakers to take action.
As WNCN noted, a “poll this week by Meredith College found 73 percent of voters support legalizing medical marijuana while 15 percent oppose it and 12 percent said they were unsure.”
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