Leaf Nation Logo

North Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Passes Committee

Tweak, tweak, pass? Medical marijuana keeps getting closer to reality in North Carolina, as it passes committee votes


Medical marijuana keeps getting closer to reality in North Carolina. A bill is moving from committee to committee where legislators tweak the bill, then pass it on to the next.

The bill seems to have at least an appearance of bipartisan support so far, reports The News & Observer. Its GOP sponsors have repeatedly told fellow Republicans that North Carolina should join most of the country legalizing medical marijuana.

But, for some odd reason, they really “want the rules here to be the strictest anywhere in the nation.”

How is a medical Cannabis law serving as few patients as possible seen as better a better law? Guess that’s a question for North Carolina Republicans! Specifically, it seems as if primary bill sponsor, Republican Sen. Bill Rabon is playing both sides of the issue.

Bill sponsors and other senators supporting SB711 have also emphasized its restrictive nature. Sen. Wally Nickel, D-Wake, called it “the most conservative and restrictive medical marijuana bill in the country.”

Democrats overwhelmingly support the bill, Senate Bill 711, with many saying it’s too strict but better than nothing at all for patients. Meanwhile Republicans, who control the majority in both chambers of the General Assembly, have mostly been either supportive or silent. Only a small number have opposed the bill, at least in public.

‘Carefully Regulate The Use Of Medical Cannabis’

“The purpose of this act is to carefully regulate the use of medical cannabis as a treatment of debilitating diseases,” Rabon said during an earlier hearing.

Rabon, a cancer survivor, has said SB711 would not serve as a gateway to recreational marijuana legalization.

The N.C. Compassionate Care Act would allow doctors to authorize Cannabis for conditions like cancer, epilepsy and PTSD. The Department of Health could award 10 licenses to companies that could operate up to four dispensaries each.

But advocates have taken issue with provisions on who would be eligible for such licenses. Applicants must show they have at least five years’ experience “in a state-licensed medical or adult use cannabis operation.”

Out-of-State Takeover In North Carolina?

But, see, here’s the thing. That means dispensaries would be exclusively operated by established, out-of-state marijuana businesses. That, of course, is a major issue for advocates who feel this unfairly alienates small, in-state businesses.

“Although we are in strong support of medical marijuana legalization and the relief it will bring to patients in North Carolina, we remain concerned about the lack of opportunities for small and independent businesses,” MPP’s Ward said.

The bill on Tuesday passed a second vote in the state Senate’s Judiciary Committee. It must still clear the Senate Health Care and Rules and Operations Committees in order to reach the Senate floor.

It could then potentially head to the House of Representatives, and then to the Governor’s desk.

Medical marijuana seemed like a long shot in the GOP-led General Assembly. Many conservatives have, however, surprisingly supported the bill as it’s worked its way through the legislative process.

Cancer, Epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s, MS, PTSD Covered

Under the proposal, patients can access Cannabis if they have a “debilitating medical condition” such as cancer, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and PTSD.

New language allows 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 can possess up to one and a half ounces of cannabis. Home cultivation would unfortunately not be permitted.

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

Some Patient Protections Included

The latest version includes certain protections for patients. The bill stipulates that employees and agents of the state must treat possession of cannabis for qualified patients the same as any other prescribed controlled substance.

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.”

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

Self-Sustaining System

The bill requires the medical marijuana system be self-sustaining, reports the Winston Salem Journal. This means it would be revenue neutral from a funding perspective following initial money to set up the system.

The funding would come mostly from license fees. It will also come from a monthly fee equal to 10% of the gross revenue derived from products sold at the medical cannabis centers.

The bill’s odds of clearing the Senate are promising since Rabon, chairman of Rules and Operations committee, is one of its three primary sponsors. Other primary sponsors are Sens. Paul Lowe, D-Forsyth, and Michael Lee, R-New Hanover.

A majority of North Carolina adults support legalizing marijuana for recreational use—and three in four say it should be legal for medical purposes—according to a poll released in February.

Are you 21 or older? This website requires you to be 21 years of age or older. Please verify your age to view the content, or click "Exit" to leave.