State Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Bill in Bipartisan Vote!

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For the second year in a row, state senators voted Tuesday to legalize medical marijuana. According to WRAL, the vote was 36-10 in favor of the plan, however, it must still pass another vote on Wednesday (a formality) before it can be sent to the House. It’s nearly identical to the law that was approved by the Senate 36-7 last year, albeit there are several key differences.

Despite widespread bipartisan support for the bill in the Senate, it stalled in the House and ultimately failed to pass last year. Republican leaders in the House were not persuaded to pass it. Yet, this year’s supporters are optimistic.

Top Republican senator and leader Bill Rabon is the bill’s primary sponsor, and he recently informed the press that he thinks the bill has more support among House Republicans than it did last year. Although popular support for medical marijuana is high across ethnic, political, and other divides, North Carolina is one of a select few states that has not yet legalized the practice.

Rabon has indicated, in acknowledgment of the measure’s continuing resistance from some socially conservative quarters, that he drafted the law such that, should North Carolina approve medicinal marijuana, the state would have the strongest rules for it of anywhere in the US.

This refers to the marketing and business rules that would need to be put in place, as well as the limited range of medical conditions for which doctors might legally prescribe marijuana. Cancer, PTSD, Parkinson’s, sickle cell anemia, and a dozen or so more diseases and disorders make the cut.

Several campaigners are disappointed that ocular diseases like glaucoma and other conditions related to the opioid crisis are not included. Chronic pain or opiate withdrawal are two examples of conditions for which doctors would be unable to recommend medical marijuana.

Several vocal proponents of the bill are veterans, many of whom have spoken out against the Veterans Health Administration and its subpar care for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Many of the veterans claim that their symptoms only began to improve once they began illegally taking marijuana in place of the prescribed prescription combo.

When the bill reaches the House, there is always a chance that some of the specifics may be altered. Legislators could expand or reduce the range of conditions for which a prescription is required, as well as alter the specifics of the administrative framework controlling the product’s sale and distribution.

In that case, the law would need to be approved by both chambers before it could be sent to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper for his signature. Cooper’s 2020 racial justice task team did not advocate legalizing marijuana for medical or recreational use but did recommend decriminalizing some pot possession offenses.

In other words, possession of marijuana would still be prohibited, but those caught with less than an ounce would be issued a civil infraction instead of a criminal record. It’s an idea advanced by Democrats in the state legislature, who also want the state should legalize medical marijuana, but Republicans haven’t signed on.

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