Bill legalizing medical marijuana passes NC Senate

Published 5:45 pm Tuesday, June 7, 2022

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RALEIGH – The North Carolina Senate has given approval to the “Compassionate Care Act,” which legalizes medical cannabis for debilitating and often terminal illnesses like cancer, HIV, ALS, and Parkinson’s disease.

Sens. Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick) and Michael Lee (R-New Hanover) sponsored the bill, which was passed during multiple readings of the legislation.

The measure will be forwarded to the NC House of Representatives where it also must be approved.

The bill is narrowly tailored to allow for the careful regulation of medical marijuana for serious medical conditions as certified in writing by a physician with whom the patient has a pre-existing relationship.

The sale or use of recreational marijuana would remain illegal.

“As a cancer survivor, I know how life-shattering it can be to receive a terminal diagnosis,” Sen. Rabon said. “Medical marijuana provides an alternative treatment for those who are trying to improve their quality of life while facing a debilitating illness. This bill does not open the floodgates to recreational marijuana; rather, it puts in place common-sense regulations to ensure that patients with a documented need can access it.”

The bill requires patients and designated caregivers to apply for a registration card to receive medical cannabis, and they would only be allowed to possess a 30-day supply.

It also establishes a state commission within the Department of Health and Human Services to manage a system that authorizes licensed suppliers to produce cannabis and cannabis-infused products in production facilities and distribute them through medical cannabis centers. North Carolina would be limited to a maximum of 10 supplier licenses.

Common-sense restrictions would be placed on the use and sale of medical cannabis, including safe, child-resistant packaging that is clearly labeled and doesn’t appeal to minors. Facilities will be required to maintain a discreet, professional appearance in line with existing commercial structures or land uses within the immediate area.

Patients may not drive, operate a boat, train, or aircraft, or undertake any task that would be negligent or professional malpractice while under the influence of cannabis. The bill also does not require places of employment or education to require on-site medical accommodations for the use of medical cannabis.

Thirty-seven other states and Washington, D.C. have adopted a medical marijuana program. Recent polling in North Carolina shows that 82% of voters support legalizing medical marijuana, including 75% of Republicans and 77% of evangelical voters.

“States across the country have made similar attempts to legalize medical marijuana and have been forced back to the drawing board to close loopholes,” said Sen. Lee. “We wanted to get this right on the first attempt, which is why we’ve spent months deliberately and transparently developing this legislation. We expect it will be a model for other states to follow.”

The “Compassionate Care Act” passed with a 35-10 vote on its second reading on June 2 and by a 36-7 vote on its final reading that took place on Monday, June 6.

First District State Senator Bob Steinberg (who represents Gates, Hertford and nine other northeastern counties) voted against the bill during its second and final reading.

Third District State Senator Ernestine Bazemore (who represents Bertie, Northampton and four other counties) did not cast a vote either time. She was listed as “excused” from the floor of the NC Senate on both occasions.