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Advocates For Medical Marijuana Thought This Was Going To Be The Year

by Mona Dougani

NC Health News

July 20, 2022

Chris Suttle planned his funeral five years ago.

The commercial insurance consultant was diagnosed with a frontal lobe brain mass in 2017. Doctors left him with two choices: undergo a full craniotomy and biopsy the mass to see if it was aggressive or simply wait out his fate.

Instead, the Chapel Hill resident started using cannabis. He said he believes that with cannabis his symptoms diminished significantly.

“I started my own microdosing procedure with no knowledge of whether this was going to work or not,” Suttle said. “When I went back, we did the scan, the tumor had not shrunk, but it also had not grown and all the swelling in the brain was gone. My speech was back, my vision was back, I wasn’t blacking out, I didn’t have word aphasia anymore.”

Suttle continued the microdosing procedure for another six months and when he returned for another scan he said his tumor had shrunk by a minute amount – 0.02 percent – which he said he believes is related to his cannabis use...

He also started lobbying for cannabis legislation. Five years later, he’s still at it. He thought that this year, his efforts were going to bear fruit, but his hopes were dashed when the General Assembly declined to move on a bill that would have legalized the medical use of marijuana in the legislative session that recessed a few weeks ago. Although lawmakers are due back in Raleigh on July 26 to tie up loose ends from their work this year, it’s unlikely that they will take up significant legislation at that time.

For Suttle and others with similar diagnoses who want to try using medical marijuana for their conditions in North Carolina, they will likely have to wait another year...

The Compassionate Care Act, proposed in 2021, would legalize medical marijuana for a limited scope of people with certain diagnosed medical conditions.

State Republican Sen. Bill Rabon (R-Southport), a primary sponsor, said the bill would make medical marijuana “very tightly regulated” and would be one of the strictest in the nation...

The bill passed the North Carolina Senate with bipartisan support, and bipartisan opposition, but its eventual success there was largely due to Rabon’s encouragement. However, the bill stalled in the House...

With neighboring state Virginia legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in July 2021, advocates in this state were hopeful the Senate bill would create some momentum....

Trina Sargent who moved from Ohio to North Carolina a month ago said she began using medical marijuana a little over a year ago for pain management through Green Compassion Network, Ohio’s medical marijuana program.

Sargent who suffers from fibromyalgia, anxiety, PTSD and other ailments said medical cannabis helped her with muscle pain and sleep. Now that Sargent is in North Carolina, she no longer has access to medical marijuana...

“People don’t realize what just marijuana can actually do for the human body. I never took it for recreational uses. Never did that. I researched it before I tried it before I did anything. I was very careful and not having it now it’s changing my body completely. I keep looking on the internet, to find out ‘hey when is the law going to be passed?’”

But even if the Compassionate Care Act had passed this session, both Sargent and Suttle would not have qualified for use due to the narrow scope outlined in the bill.

It’s a frustration.

“I stood up in the first Senate hearing that we had on medicinal cannabis and told them that the way the bill is written right now with Senate 711, I would not qualify,” Suttle said. “Therefore I would be dead...”

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