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Medical Marijuana Legalization Bill Advances In North Carolina Senate

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The North Carolina Senate continues to push forward a bill that would legalize medical marijuana here, as the state remains one of the few holdouts in the country that does not have such a law.

Senators on the finance committee passed the bill on Wednesday, after a brief discussion of taxes and other revenue it could bring to North Carolina if passed. No one had a solid estimate, but based on other states, that would likely bring in tens of millions of dollars a year.

For example, the News & Observer previously reported that Michigan made $ 45 million from medical marijuana. It has tax structures similar to those offered by North Carolina, and roughly the same population size.

Some members of the public came to the General Assembly on Wednesday to tell lawmakers to charge companies even more money that the bill proposes to license to sell marijuana here, in order to make more money. . Others said the opposite, fearing that if costs got too high at dispensaries, people would start buying the herb again from drug dealers instead of official channels.

In the end, lawmakers ignored neither side and kept the same tax and fee numbers.

Supporters and opponents

For opponents of the bill, marijuana is so dangerous that letting doctors prescribe it to their patients, even under limited circumstances, is not worth the millions of dollars it would bring to the state.

“The social cost … will far exceed any amount we could earn in income,” Reverend Mark Creech, head of the Christian Action League, said at Wednesday’s hearing.

The bill’s main sponsor, Republican Senator Bill Rabon of New Brunswick County, said he was working with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to get their advice on health issues public.

“We met with DHHS and they had some really great ideas that we’re going to incorporate,” he said.

Creech and other conservative Christian leaders who oppose the bill are in a small minority. A poll from Elon University earlier this year found that nearly three in four North Carolinians would support medical marijuana – and even a slim majority would support full legalization.

This legislation, SB 711, would not fully legalize marijuana. And its GOP sponsors have tried to acknowledge the concerns of opponents. They have told at every hearing that the bill has been before the legislature so far that they deliberately drafted it so that, if passed, North Carolina would have the strictest rules governing the marijuana for medical purposes in the country.

There would be a smaller list of diseases for which doctors could prescribe it than in many other states, and there would be strict regulations on how companies are allowed to grow, advertise, and sell marijuana if prescribed. medical was becoming legal.

Next steps for the medical marijuana bill

With Wednesday’s vote in the books, the bill has now passed two of the four committees it needs to clear before it can move on to an official vote in the Senate – which could happen in a matter of days or weeks.

The only remaining hurdles are the Senate health care and rules committees. One of the bill’s sponsors, Republican Senator Michael Lee, is on the health care committee, and Rabon, the main sponsor, is the chairman of the rules committee.

Given this and the fact that the bill has so far seemed to gain unanimous or near unanimous support in committee so far, it appears to be heading for a vote in the Senate soon, pending a sudden uprising within of the Republican caucus.

Even if he passes the Senate, that’s not the end, however. He would then have to repeat the process in the House of Representatives, where the Republican majority in that chamber could support him, oppose it, or make some adjustments.

Democrats in both Houses are backing the bill, though some say it shouldn’t be as tough as the Republicans backing it want. Some Democratic lawmakers have argued for full legalization, as Virginia just did in addition to another handful of states, while others have not pushed for full legalization but have asked – until now to no avail – that the list of medical conditions be expanded to include things like chronic pain or migraines.

The proposed list currently only includes a handful of medical conditions, including cancer, PTSD, sickle cell anemia and more.

For more information on North Carolina government and politics, listen to The News & Observer and NC Insider’s Under the Dome political podcast. You can find it at link.chtbl.com/underthedomenc or wherever you get your podcasts.

Under the dome

On The News & Observer’s Under the Dome podcast, we unpack the legislation and the issues that matter, keeping you up to date with what’s going on in North Carolina politics twice a week on Monday and Friday mornings. Check us out here and sign up for our weekly Under the Dome newsletter for more political news.

Will Doran reports on North Carolina politics, with a focus on employees and state agencies. In 2016, he started The News & Observer’s fact-checking partnership, PolitiFact NC, and before that he reported on local governments around the Triangle. Contact him at [email protected] or (919) 836-2858.


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