Medical Marijuana Bill Faces Uncertain Future in North Carolina House, Advocates Remain Hopeful for Next Session

North Carolina House Casts Doubt on Medical Cannabis Bill, Advocates Pin Hopes on Next Session

In a surprising turn of events, the fate of the Senate-passed medical marijuana legalization bill in hangs in the balance as House Majority Leader John Bell (R) confidently asserts that the bill will not progress further during this session. Despite strong-arm tactics from the Senate, Bell disclosed in an interview with Spectrum News that Republican lawmakers were unable to garner enough support to move the bill forward in the House. However, advocates of medical cannabis remain optimistic, anticipating a potential return during the next year’s short session.

According to Bell, discussions surrounding the cannabis measure are still ongoing within the House. The issue has sparked passionate debates on both sides among legislators, with some members of the Republican caucus staunchly supportive and others firmly against it. Bell acknowledges the challenge of finding common ground and reaching an agreement on a significant policy change such as this.

Tim Moore (R), who initially expressed optimism regarding the prospects of the earlier in the session, has maintained his stance of only bringing bills to the floor that possess majority support within the GOP caucus. Despite his previous assertions that the chances of passage for the medical cannabis bill were better than ever before, Moore’s recent remarks cast doubt on its potential floor consideration this year.

Nonetheless, the bill’s sponsor, Senator Bill Rabon (R), is determined not to let the legislation fade away. Rabon attached an amendment to an unrelated House measure, stipulating that its effective date would depend on the enactment of medical cannabis legalization. This strategic move served as a testament to his unwavering commitment to the cause. Rabon has even considered employing similar tactics on other House bills to force consideration of the cannabis measure. Additionally, he took the extra step of including regulatory appointments in a separate measure, which successfully passed the Senate.

Senator Paul Lowe (D), a co-sponsor of Rabon’s bill, refutes any notion that the legislation is “dead.” Lowe believes that some members of the House GOP caucus are reevaluating their positions and may eventually come around to supporting the bill. While Lowe refrains from sharing specific details about lawmakers’ positions, he expresses confidence in the eventual progress of the bill, whether in the current long session or the upcoming short session.

Rabon’s bill, which received a hearing in the House Health Committee in May, outlines key provisions for medical cannabis legalization. Patients with qualifying conditions such as cancer, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) would be granted to cannabis for medicinal purposes. Smoking and vaping would be permitted, provided doctors prescribe specific delivery methods and dosages, reassessing patient eligibility annually.

The bill also allows for up to 10 medical marijuana suppliers, each operating a maximum of eight . This doubles the dispensary cap outlined in the previous version. A Compassionate Use Advisory Board would be established, empowered to add new qualifying medical conditions. Furthermore, a Medical Cannabis Production Commission would oversee licensing, ensure an adequate supply of cannabis, and generate revenue to regulate the program effectively. Additionally, a North Carolina Cannabis Research Program would conduct objective scientific research on the administration of cannabis as part of medical treatment.

Although the bill lacks specific equity provisions that many advocates seek in legalization legislation, its findings section emphasizes the legislature’s intent to prioritize public health and safety in creating a comprehensive regulatory system for cannabis cultivation, processing, and sales. The bill further acknowledges the need for flexibility to adapt swiftly to the ever-evolving cannabis .

A February poll revealed that approximately three in four North Carolina voters support medical cannabis legalization, indicating widespread public backing for the reform. Governor Roy Cooper (D) expressed optimism regarding the bill’s passage in December, highlighting his support for broader decriminalization of cannabis possession and acknowledging racial disparities in enforcement.

Cooper’s backing of decriminalization emerged relatively recently, with his endorsement in October 2022, urging an end to the stigma surrounding cannabis and exploring options for providing relief to individuals with prior . In response to President Joe Biden’s call for state-level relief, Cooper directed state attorneys to review pardon authority for marijuana offenses. Additionally, he formed the North Carolina Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice, which recommended decriminalizing marijuana and conducting a study on broader legalization.

Currently, possessing between half an ounce and 1.5 ounces of cannabis in North Carolina is a class 1 misdemeanor, carrying potential imprisonment of up to 45 days and a $200 fine. In 2019, there were 3,422 such charges and 1,909 convictions, with a significant proportion of those convicted being nonwhite.

Moreover, in June, a North Carolina House committee approved a bill establishing a $5 million grant program to support research on the therapeutic potential of and MDMA. The bill also proposes the creation of a Therapies Research Advisory Board to oversee this effort.

As the legislative session progresses, the uncertain future of the medical cannabis bill in the North Carolina House leaves advocates eagerly anticipating the next session. Despite the current hurdles, the widespread support from voters, the determined efforts of sponsors, and the evolving dynamics surrounding cannabis reform may yet pave the way for meaningful progress in the state.

Malvin Felix
I'm Malvin, a cannabis news enthusiast who finds joy in staying updated about the latest industry trends. My passion led me to become a dedicated writer, entrepreneur, and investor in the cannabis space. Through my writing, I aim to educate and spark discussions, while my entrepreneurial ventures and strategic investments reflect my commitment to driving positive change in the industry.

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