RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – If you are suffering and think medical marijuana might alleviate your symptoms, Senate Bill 3 might be able to help – if your malady is specified in the bill and you follow a strict procedure to get a prescription.

The so-called Compassionate care Act – passed Wednesday by the Senate and apparently getting a favorable view in the House – describes in detail if your condition might be treated legally by a variety of cannabis products and how you might go about that process.

State Sen. Paul Lowe (D-Winston-Salem)

“The main thing we are trying to do by offering this bill is offering the people of North Carolina some help,” said Sen. Paul Lowe (D-Winston-Salem) who has sponsored and pitched the bill alongside state Sens. Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick) and Mike Lee (R-New Hanover).” I think this bill does that. It doesn’t do everything, but it does that.”

State Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Greensboro) said Wednesday that she long had supported medical marijuana, but she said it was a conversation with her sister’s oncologist that drove home the point. Her sister died of brain cancer.

State Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Greensboro)

“I will never forget how her oncologist impressed upon me the need to legalize medical marijuana,” Harrison said. “He felt strongly that patients seeking relief shouldn’t be treated as criminals.”

Cancer is one of the 15 conditions identified in the bill. Some critics have suggested there is not enough proof that medical marijuana is effective for some of them, particularly post-traumatic stress disorder – or PTSD – and that diagnosis has stricter requirements.

The full list

The full list of conditions approved for cannabis treatment in SB 3 are:

  • Cancer.
  • Epilepsy.
  • Positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
  • Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) – also called Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
  • Crohn’s disease.
  • Sickle cell anemia.
  • Parkinson’s disease.
  • PTSD, 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.
  • 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.
  • A condition resulting in the individual receiving hospice care.
  • Any other serious medical condition or its treatment added by the Compassionate Use Advisory Board, as provided for in G.S. 90-113.113. 3.

Those conditions must be diagnosed by a physician who has been through training for certifications required by the bill.

The products

Cannabis is described in the bill as being marijuana as specified under current statute, a cannabis-infused product (such as edibles) that is “intended for use or consumption other than by inhalation, smoking, or vaping.”

This includes “tablets, capsules, a concentrated liquid or viscous oil, a liquid suspension, a topical preparation, a transdermal preparation, a sublingual preparation, a gelatinous cube, a gelatinous rectangular cuboid, a lozenge in a cube or rectangular cuboid shape, a resin or a wax.”

Doctor’s guidance

The bill specifies that a patient must have a “bona fide relationship” with a physician who is licensed under state law and in good standing, with a valid DEA registration, and who has completed continuing medical education courses as required pursuant to the law.

There can be no “doctor shopping” for this prescription. The physician must assess the patient’s medical history, review prescription usage history through the Controlled Substances Reporting System and conduct an in-person assessment of the patient’s current condition.

There also needs to be plans for follow-up evaluations to ascertain if the cannabis has been effective in treatment.

Physician requirements

There is a long section in the bill that describes physician requirements that are extensive, and it includes how that, before prescribing cannabis to a patient, a physician “shall complete a 10-hour continuing medical education course on the prescribing of medical cannabis.”

That would be followed by 3 hours of supplemental education in any year in which he or she has written a prescription for cannabis.