North Carolina House Blocks Senate-Passed Medical Marijuana Bill

by Kyle Jaeger

Schedule 6 Foundation, Marijuana Moment

June 23, 2022


A Senate-passed bill to legalize medical marijuana in North Carolina is effectively dead this session, with House Republican lawmakers reportedly deciding not to allow it to advance further following an internal caucus vote.


The legislation from Sen. Bill Rabon (R) cleared the Senate earlier this month in a strongly bipartisan vote. But questions were already being raised about its prospects in the House, where GOP leadership had been consistently signaling that they were reluctant to move the legislation this year...


Rabon’s NC Compassionate Care Act had advanced through four Senate committees before finally reaching the floor. The momentum seemed to bode well for reform, but GOP members reportedly conferenced internally, choosing not to give the bill a committee hearing in the House as the deadline for the legislative session quickly approaches.


House Speaker Tim Moore (R) was among those key lawmakers who downplayed the idea of enacting the legislation this year, saying recently that “there are a lot of concerns with this bill.”


Presumably, those problems could have been raised and potentially addressed if the measure was allowed to go through the committee process in the House, but now it appears that won’t happen...


Here’s what the NC Compassionate Care Act would accomplish:


Patients would be allowed to access cannabis if they have a “debilitating medical condition” such as cancer, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and post-traumatic stress disorder.


The committee substitute adopted in in August by the Senate Judiciary Committee changed the list somewhat to allow patients with terminal illnesses and have six months to live, as well as those with conditions resulting in hospice care, to also qualify for cannabis.


Patients could possess up to one and a half ounces of marijuana, but home cultivation would not be permitted.


The definition of what constitutes a “cannabis-infused” product was also changed in the latest substitute version. Such products include “a tablet, a capsule, a concentrated liquid or viscous oil, a liquid suspension, a topical preparation, a transdermal preparation, a sublingual preparation, a gelatinous cube, gelatinous rectangular cuboid, lozenge in a cube or rectangular cuboid shape, a resin or wax.”


Smoking and vaping would also be allowed, but doctors would need to prescribe a specific method of delivery and dosages for patients under the revised legislation. And they would need to reevaluate patients’ eligibility for the program at least once a year.


The bill provides for up to 10 medical marijuana suppliers who control the cultivation and sale of cannabis. Each supplier can operate up to four dispensaries.

Under the bill, a Compassionate Use Advisory Board would be established, and it could add new qualifying medical conditions.


Separately, a Medical Cannabis Production Commission would be created to ensure that there’s an adequate supply of cannabis for patients, oversee licensing and generate enough revenue to regulate the program.


Advocates are still hoping to see further revisions to expand the proposed program and promote social equity.


The measure would further create a North Carolina Cannabis Research Program to “undertake objective, scientific research regarding the administration of cannabis or cannabis-infused products as part of medical treatment.”


There are also protections for patients included in the latest version. It stipulates that employees and agents of the state must treat possession of cannabis for qualified patients the same as any other prescribed controlled substance.


Further, the bill includes limitations on where marijuana can be smoked or vaped, and includes restrictions on the locations and hours of operation for medical cannabis businesses. It also allows regulators to place a “limitation on the number of written certifications a physician may issue at any given time.”


A recent poll from the Carolina Partnership for Reform found that 82 percent of North Carolina voters are in favor of legalizing medical cannabis—including 75 percent of Republicans, 87 percent of unaffiliated voters and 86 percent of Democrats.

A separate question found that 60 percent of voters back adult-use legalization....


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