RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – North Carolina’s state senators left for a long weekend on a high Thursday after approving a bill to make medical marijuana available to those who suffer from a variety of maladies.
The second reading of Senate Bill 711 was approved, 35-10, and the bill will be passed along to the House of Representatives, which may not partake in this session.
Eight Republicans and two Democrats – Don Davis, a candidate for Congress in the 1st Congressional District, and Julie Mayfield of Buncombe County – voted no. One of those Republicans is Chuck Edwards of Waynesville, the nominee in the race to succeed Rep. Madison Cawthorn in the 11th Congressional District.
The bill would allow a doctor to recommend medical marijuana products for specified conditions and maladies, with patients 18 and older being issued registry identification cards to verify their allowed use of the products. Patients younger than 18 require a more stringent approval and treatment process.
There would be licensed dealers/vendors that would be open only between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., and smoking prohibitions would apply. The regulations are strict.
Violators would be subject to felony prosecution. A state board would be created and appointed to oversee the process, sort of like a state board of elections. But medical marijuana – legal in some form in 48 states but not in North Carolina or Nebraska – is controversial because some fear that it’s a gateway drug like recreational marijuana is said to be, and others dispute whether it is effective in treating illnesses or simply masks symptoms for patients.
The CBD and THC variants used in medical marijuana can be smoked, inhaled, ingested or taken under the tongue. Medical experts tout its benefits for treating glaucoma and chemotherapy, and various senators who spoke during the pre-vote debate provided examples of how it helped with post-traumatic stress disorder, especially among veterans.
WebMD also lists Alzheimer’s disease, appetite loss, various cancers, Crohn’s Disease, HIV/AIDS, MS, epilepsy and more general effects such as nausea, seizures, muscle spasms and pain. There also is a sense that CBD might help with anxiety and have a greater impact on side effects (such as chemo).
Senators tabled an amendment proposed by Mayfield to address concerns that businesses in North Carolina couldn’t get licensed under the bill’s structure. She said only large multistate companies could qualify.
What about the House?
Whether the House is going to address this bill during this short session seems questionable. Even during a debate Thursday of a tangentially related bill about CBD oil, some members of the House avowed opposition to medical marijuana, with at least one, Rep. Pat McElraft (R-Carteret), saying she didn’t want “medical marijuana sold down on the street corner.” Another called it the “new version of Big Tobacco.”
Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Greensboro) said she has “been working on legalizing medical cannabis for most of my 18-year legislative career. Former Rep. Earl Jones got the ball rolling before I was elected, and I joined in on his efforts once I was elected. I remain a strong supporter.”
She cited how 37 states and the District of Columbia have authorized it (more of them have CBD oil for medical purposes). “It is long past time that we join them,” she said. “States that have enacted it have lower rates of opioid addiction and overdose. And the benefits are well-documented, from therapeutic impacts to pain relief.
“As to whether the House will take it up, I will have to defer to my GOP colleagues. Most if not all Democrats support it.”
No other member of the Triad’s legislative delegation responded to an email seeking comment on this bill and its prospects in the House.
Harrison said the bill will fall to Rep. Destin Hall (R-Caldwell), chair of the House Rules Committee, which includes Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Whitsett) and Rep. Amos Quick (D-Greensboro) from the Triad.
“He [Hall] can count votes,” Harrison said.