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Law North Carolina

momofthegoons

Vapor Accessory Addict
Staff member
NC bills would legalize possessing up to 4 ounces of marijuana for personal use

A Forsyth County legislator is sponsoring a Senate bill that would make it legal to possess up to four ounces of marijuana for personal use.

Senate Bill 791, and companion House Bill 994, would allow people to possess up to four ounces before before they could be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Sen. Paul Lowe (D-Forsyth), the bill’s primary sponsor, said he introduced the bill in an effort “to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. This is heading in the right direction.”


Currently, possession of one-half of an ounce or less of a controlled substance is a Class 3 misdemeanor. That is punishable by up to 20 days of an active jail sentence — which typically is suspended — or a requirement of community service.

By contrast, a Class 1 misdemeanor is punishable by up to 120 days of an active sentence.

The bills would exempt up to four ounces of marijuana from being considered a controlled substance.

The bills also would raise the weight of marijuana an individual can possess from 1.5 ounces to a pound before it qualifies as a Class 1 felony, which is punishable by up to five months’ active sentence period.

Jim O’Neill, district attorney for Forsyth County, said the bills should be “thoroughly vetted, and must include and consider the scientific community’s evidence of the damage caused to the developing adolescent brain caused by marijuana smoking.”

O’Neill said he considers Lowe “a friend and someone I truly respect, but to characterize four ounces of marijuana as a user amount would be absurd.”

“Conservatively speaking, four ounces of marijuana has a street value of $1,000 and can be broken down into about 120 marijuana cigarettes.”

The bills would leave the amount of hashish unchanged at no more than one-twentieth of an ounce to avoid a Class 1 misdemeanor, and no more than three-twentieths of an ounce to avoid a Class 1 felony.

Joining Lowe in sponsoring SB791 is Sens. Milton “Toby” Fitch Jr., D-Nash, and Valerie Foushee, D-Orange. Fitch, who was appointed to the Senate on March 23, is a retired Superior Court judge. The bill, introduced Thursday, was sent to the Senate rules committee.

HB994 is sponsored by Rep. Kelly Alexander Jr., D-Mecklenburg. The bill, also introduced Thursday, was sent to the House Judiciary committee. If approved by that committee, it would go to the Finance committee.

The laws would go into effect July 1 if approved by the Republican-controlled General Assembly and signed by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

However, it’s unlikely either bill advances out of committee, in part given GOP legislative leaders’ focus on passing a non-amended state budget for 2018-19 and on school safety legislation. Those leaders also have said their goal is to end the current session by the Fourth of July weekend.

With respect to previous convictions, the bills allow individuals found guilty of possessing four ounces or less of marijuana to file a petition in Superior Court in the county in which they were convicted. There would be a $100 cost to file the petition.

A judge could conduct a hearing on the petition and determine whether an expunction of the conviction is warranted. If an expunction is granted, all law enforcement agencies would be required to expunge their records of the conviction as well.

O’Neill said that with the majority of murders and robberies in the local community “already drug related, why in heavens would we want to increase the number of targeted victims legally walking (with four ounces of marijuana) around every day.”


According to Leafbuyer, a pro-marijuana website, there are eight states — Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington — that allow for legal recreational possession of marijuana. Those states limit how much can be possessed at one time.

“Federal law continues to prohibit marijuana sales and consumption, causing each state to craft laws and regulations governing their pot industry along with a unique framework,” according to Leafbuyer.

The website said that “limits on how much weed you have on your person, as opposed to the volume you can possess at home, comes down to the word intent.”

“In the eyes of the law, setting a limit on how much a person age 21 or older can possess while in public sends a clear message.

“Carry anything above this, and we’ll consider you more likely to be distributing the substance illegally. Or at least you’re a person with some suspicious behavior patterns.”

The two marijuana weight-limitation bills represent a different legislative effort than bills submitted in April 2017 that would legalize marijuana in North Carolina for medical purposes — Senate bills 579 and 649 and House Bill 185.

None of those medical marijuana bills advanced out of committee.

North Carolina is one of 20 states that does not have a form of a medical marijuana law or legalized marijuana use.
 

momofthegoons

Vapor Accessory Addict
Staff member
Efforts underway to legalize marijuana in NC
RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) - Abner Brown said it was marijuana that helped him relieve his opioid addiction while living in western North Carolina.

"It was a plant that helped saved my life," Brown said.







It's something he wishes could've helped his friends.

"About three years ago, my first friend died from an opiate overdose, and I've had six die in the last three years since then," he said. "That first one spurred me to get involved."

Now the head of North Carolina NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), he and others are touring the Tar Heel State, talking with residents and hoping to see cannabis legalized in 2019.


Brown said the group will be working in 2018, ahead of the 2019 long General Assembly session.

"We're trying to grow those numbers, provide them with the information they need to contact their representatives," he said. "Make meetings with them, see them in person, put a face to this issue that's going on in the state."

Along with helping solve the opioid epidemic, Brown believes the move could generate economic growth, especially in rural areas.

"There's a lot of rural communities that were hit hard when the tobacco buyout happened," Brown said. "It's hard for these farmers to keep making a living. Between hemp, and I'd guess you'd call it 'drug cannabis,' there could be a big revitalization to some of these areas," Brown said.

A recent poll of North Carolina voters from Elon University showed 80 percent supported medical marijuana use, while 45 percent supported recreational marijuana use.

CBS 17 talked with North Carolina residents to get their take on the issue.

"If it's something that is going to help people, and give people a better sense of living. and having a good life, then why not," Efland resident Mark Hamlett said.

"I'm not for it, but I'm also not against it for people who do it," Goldsboro resident Schylar Lewis said. "I think definitely, for medical reasons, it should be used."

 

momofthegoons

Vapor Accessory Addict
Staff member
NC has some of the strictest marijuana laws in the country, this proposal seeks to change that
RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Lawmakers filed legislation this week that would decriminalize marijuana possession of four ounces or less, while simultaneously raising the amounts that would qualify for a felony charge.

"Lots of people of color and young people are getting busted with possession with intent to sell and deliver. And they're not selling and delivering. What they're doing is purchasing it for their private use," said Representative Allison Dahle, one of the primary sponsors of House Bill 766.


Currently, possession of 1.5 ounces or less is a misdemeanor, with anything above that a felony. If passed, anyone with possession of more than four ounces, but 16 ounces or less of marijuana, would receive a misdemeanor.

"There are tons of people in jail for a pound. And they're sitting in jail on sentences that are not doing anybody any good," Dahle said.

Thirty-three states and Washington, D.C. have expansive medical marijuana programs, and 10 states and Washington, D.C. allow for recreational marijuana use.

"Yes it's illegal, but they don't need to be in our jails. It sets them up for the rest of their life struggling. It sets them up for not being able to get a job, having to check that box that says 'I have a criminal history,'" Dahle argued.

North Carolina has an exception for "hemp extract" to treat intractable epilepsy, but strict medical marijuana use laws outside that.


The legislation has the support of the North Carolina branch of NORML, which stands for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

"We have a lot of sponsors this year. More than any previous year," said Keith Caughran, who is part of the NORML Charlotte chapter, referencing the 12 additional sponsors signing on to the proposal.

Dahle acknowledged they have not found any Republicans to support the proposal.

"What's going to get the Republicans to change their mind on this - I would say it would be a fiscal conservative argument that around North Carolina, a lot of the municipalities and counties, the police are spending tens of thousands of hours either on arresting people or issuing citations to them after they're caught during a traffic stop. So every hour that they spend on this, they can't spend rolling up the Opioid trafficking networks," Caughran said.

Last month, a group of lawmakers filed HB 401, specifically addressing medical marijuana.
 

Baron23

Well-Known Member

momofthegoons

Vapor Accessory Addict
Staff member

Task Force in North Carolina Recommends Legal Cannabis

Will North Carolina be the next state to reform their cannabis laws?

During the tough financial times of COVID, many states are turning to legal or medical cannabis to boost the economy and repair the damage done by the war on drugs. The North Carolina Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice would like to see its home state follow suit in embracing the newly emerging industry.

The task force was first called by Governor Roy Cooper, who knows that the South currently has two problems to deal with in light of 2020 events: racial tension and economic hardships. Therefore, the governor used Executive Order 145 this summer to call a task force to look for solutions to the issues minorities face when it comes to daily discrimination and the legal system. This recommendation has the added bonus of seriously boosting the economy as well.

The recommendations touch on several ideas, including decriminalizing possession of cannabis. Because there were so many charges and convictions of people of color, 31,287 charges in 2019 for those who just had half ounces, to be exact, this would majorly help with social equity and ending discrimination and the war on drugs. It could also lead the way for a legal industry to spring forth in the future.

Currently, North Carolina allows CBD for medical use in some cases, but really doesn’t have much of a medical program, and absolutely no recreational legality. Like most of the South, the state has remained far away from legalizing cannabis or discussion of legalization. Now, however, the tide is starting to turn, with nearby states like South Carolina and Virginiadiscussing moves towards legalization, and lots of Northern East Coast states already embracing it.

Potential Impact of Legalization​

However, some doubt that legalization is the best way to help with racial equity. Danny Houck, a chief deputy in North Carolina’s Ashe County, has his doubts, as many people of color are arrested for other drugs, or from other illicit activities.

“It would depend on how they legalize it, the amounts and things of that nature,” Houck said.

However, the financial impact to the state could be serious. Legal states are currently reporting a total of more than $250 million in tax money from 2018. Plus, the state is currently lacking in jobs due to shutdowns, and in addition to bringing in money, a legal industry would create a lot of new jobs.

“Today’s report is a next step towards the actions that North Carolina must take to end racial disparities in the criminal justice system, not the final word,” task force member and N.C. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anita Earls said. “The implementation chart listing all the recommendations will help direct our work ahead and monitor our progress. I am grateful for the hundreds of people from diverse perspectives who gave us their best thinking on what needs to change; to be successful, we will need their continued involvement going forward.”

If these measures are adopted, North Carolina could be looking at a new future for both social equity and the economy.
 

momofthegoons

Vapor Accessory Addict
Staff member

State might loosen cannabis laws in new year


Statewide activists and advocacy groups working toward loosening North Carolina's cannabis regulations are celebrating suggested policy reform that could result in cannabis decriminalization throughout the state.

Last month, the North Carolina Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice formally introduced a list of policy changes to make law enforcement and the courts more racially equitable. The task force, commissioned by Gov. Roy Cooper, spent weeks formulating more than 100 suggested policy changes. Although task force members, had difficulty agreeing about the particulars of cannabis-related reformation, they managed to reach a consensus, due in large part to help from organizations like NC NORML.

"Some of the task force members might have already had the information," said NC NORML Consultant Janis Ramquist. "We certainly made an effort to make sure they understood the impact of cannabis and how cannabis laws serve as a ramp to jail."

NC NORML is one of a handful of advocacy groups seeking to legalize cannabis use. While the language within the task force's policy suggestion doesn't amount to legalization, Ramquist believes it's a good start.

"To decriminalize is to make it a specific crime to where people can be fined but not jailed and it doesn't go on the record," Ramquist said. "It's a fine like speeding, it puts you in that category. Legalization would allow people to possess [cannabis]. Of course, it would still make impaired driving illegal, regardless of substance. It would still be a crime if it is misused."

Ramquist said her organization didn't meet directly with the task force. Instead they reached out via email and other correspondence early in the task force's formation to make sure they understood stringent cannabis laws is an overlooked manifestation of discrimination in law enforcement.

State Attorney General Josh Stein agreed.

"White and Black North Carolinians use marijuana at similar rates, yet Black people are disproportionately arrested and sentenced," Stein said in December, when the task force introduced their policy prescriptions. "Additionally, it is time for North Carolina to start having real conversations about a safe, measured, public health approach to potentially legalizing marijuana.”

Findings by the ACLU give further credence to this. In their recent report, titled A Tale of Two Countries: Racially Targeted Arrests in the Era of Marijuana Reform, the ACLU analyzed government compiled data and discovered African Americans are 3.3 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession relative to their white peers.

"The aggressive enforcement of marijuana possession laws needlessly ensnares hundreds of thousands of people into the criminal justice system and wastes billions of taxpayers’ dollars," reads the ACLU's study. "What’s more, it is carried out with staggering racial bias. Despite being a priority for police departments nationwide, the War on Marijuana has failed to reduce marijuana use and availability and diverted resources that could be better invested in our communities."

Ramquist said she is confident the governor will make the entire package, including marijuana decriminalization, a priority going into the new year. She added that there is significant support within the state, citing polls that show the majority of North Carolinians are for decriminalization.

"We're pleased this task force is giving this attention," Ramquist said. "This is something we believe the legislature will act on."
 
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momofthegoons

Vapor Accessory Addict
Staff member
Cherokee Consider Legalizing Medical Marijuana, a First for the Carolinas

In the western tip of North Carolina, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is getting ready to consider what could be the first legal medical marijuana in the region.

Next month, the Tribal Council will consider a measure to legalize pot for medicinal purposes, which could be part of a broader legalization effort on tribal land.

“The people want cannabis, the world is changing, society is changing,” says Jeremy Wilson, a former Tribal Council member and the government affairs liaison for the principal chief.

“We want to have dispensaries here on the Qualla Boundary and to be able to sell, but we have to start with this phase first,” he says.

The Tribal Council unanimously passed a resolution in December directing a committee to develop “legislation directed toward allowing the use of medical marijuana on the Qualla Boundary in the most practical, responsible, and lawful way possible.”

Wilson says this is the first step toward broader legalization on tribal land, called the Qualla Boundary.

Marijuana is illegal in North Carolina. A state commission recently recommended decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana in North Carolina.

Either medical or recreational marijuana is legal in 36 states and the District of Columbia.

Hemp cultivation and hemp products like CBD are now legal in North Carolina. Some farmers on the Qualla Boundary have been growing hemp as part of a pilot project.

The Cherokee have tribal sovereignty on their land, about 100 square miles over five western North Carolina counties. “We do have sovereignty on our side,” Wilson says. But, he added, “We are regulating these efforts, it’s not just a rogue free-for-all.”

The Eastern Band of Cherokee are not the first Native American tribe to consider legalizing marijuana in a state where it would otherwise be illegal. The Oglala Sioux in North Dakota legalized marijuana on tribal land in October, according to Marijuana Business Daily, a magazine that tracks the marijuana industry.

“The Oglala Sioux Tribe is the first Native American tribe to move forward to legalize marijuana use in a state that has yet to similarly regulate it,” according to a statement from NORML, a marijuana advocacy organization.

South Dakota voters decided in the November election to legalize both medical and recreational marijuana in the state, but those regulations are still in the works, according to the group.

This isn’t the first time Tribal Council members have tried to legalize marijuana in North Carolina. An earlier effort to legalize cannabis for medical and recreational uses failed a couple of years ago.

“Over the course of three years that I’ve been working on this, we’ve gained a good momentum of support in the public and more and more people are starting to grasp the idea of cannabis, marijuana to be exact, to be our next game-changer,” Wilson says.

Wilson says developing a marijuana industry on Cherokee land in North Carolina could help offset any losses from the casino, the biggest economic engine for the tribe.

Tribal officials are wary of plans for the Catawba Nation casino planned for just outside Charlotte at Kings Mountain. That casino resort could cut into their main revenue stream.

“Getting us to a place and a legal framework to where we can have a dispensary here to supply the medical marijuana that the public would need and create a new revenue line for us,” Wilson says.

“It’s not just about money,” Wilson says. “We want to create a new economy, of course, but we want to help people at the same time.”

He touts medical benefits that have come up in other debates over medical marijuana, including pain management and opioid addiction.

“We believe that medical is the right route for now,” but that could lead to a bigger industry for the Cherokee in western North Carolina. The next goal, he says, is “getting us to a place and a legal framework to where we can have a dispensary here to supply the medical marijuana that the public would need, and create a new revenue line for us.”

The Cherokee, like other states, territories, and Native American tribes, are wading through an uncertain patchwork of laws. But the tribe could take a big step in February by legalizing medical marijuana on the Qualla Boundary.
 

momofthegoons

Vapor Accessory Addict
Staff member

North Carolina Senators Act On Medical Marijuana Legalization Bill In Committee


A North Carolina Senate committee on Wednesday took action on a bill to legalize medical marijuana, amending it and setting the stage for approval by the panel at a future meeting.

A substitute version of the legislation, sponsored by Rules Committee Chairman Bill Rabon (R), was adopted in a voice vote by the Judiciary Committee.

Under the proposal, patients would qualify for medical marijuana under the proposal if they have a “debilitating medical condition” such as cancer, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis. Regulators would have authority to add additional qualifying conditions.

Rabon, who is himself a cancer survivor, said in an opening statement that “there’s nothing less compassionate on this Earth than to watch a person you love suffering when there’s something that can ameliorate at least that suffering.”

“I know how rough it is to go through chemo. I know how bad it is to wake up every day and think that it may be your last day on Earth,” he said. “It’s a personal thing with me. I don’t see the stigma that some people do.”

“I think it is time to bring this forward,” he continued. “I’m going to see it through as best I can. I owe it to my fellow man.”

Under a substitute amendment adopted by the committee, a 13-member Medical Cannabis Advisory Board would be able to “review petitions to add a new debilitating medical condition and have the power to add a new debilitating medical condition,” according to a summary.


Separately, a nine-member Medical Cannabis Production Commission would be established to “provide a safe, regulated supply of cannabis appropriate for medical use by qualified registry identification cardholders; ensure statewide access to safe and affordable cannabis to registry identification cardholders; establish a system that is well regulated, includes a seed to sale tracking system, and is financially viable for suppliers to ensure the highest quality cannabis and cannabis infused products for patients; and generate sufficient revenue for the Commission to oversee and for the Department to maintain and operate the system.”

The measure would further create a North Carolina Cannabis Research Program “to conduct objective, scientific research regarding the administration of cannabis or cannabis-infused products as part of medical treatment.”

Because the panel accepted the substitute, there couldn’t be a vote on the full proposal at the same meeting under Senate rules. If ultimately approved by Judiciary, it must also still move through at least three more panels before reaching the floor and then potentially heading to the House of Representatives.

The bill has also been referred to the Senate Finance, Health Care and Rules and Operations Committees.

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.


It’s possible that the legislature could see additional action on a variety of cannabis-related bills this year.

A separate medical cannabis bill, adult-use marijuana legalization measures and several pieces of cannabis decriminalization legislation have also been introduced in recent months—though they do not currently have bipartisan cosponsorships and would likely face an uphill battle in the GOP-controlled legislature.

While advocates have their doubts about broad reform being enacted in North Carolina this session, Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R) recently acknowledged that opinions are shifting when it comes to marijuana in the state, and he said that Rabon specifically “for a long time has looked at the issue.”

“I do sense that public opinion is changing on marijuana—both medical and recreational,” Rabon said previously. “I don’t know where the members of the General Assembly are at this time in terms of support for the bill, but it’s something we’ll look at and we’ll see how things move along.”



Pressure to end criminalization is also building regionally.

Neighboring Virginia became the first state in the south to legalize marijuana for recreational use in April, for example. And the sponsor of a South Carolina medical cannabis legalization bill said he’s received assurances from a top Senate leader that his measure will be taken up as the first order of business at the beginning of next year.

A task force convened by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) backed decriminalization as part of a series of policy recommendations on racial equity that were released late last year. The group also said prior cannabis convictions should be expunged and the state should consider whether to more broadly legalize marijuana.

Under current law, possessing more than half an ounce up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis is a class 1 misdemeanor, subject to up to 45 days imprisonment and a $200 fine. In 2019, there were 3,422 such charges and 1,909 convictions, with 70 percent of those convicted being nonwhite.

Read the North Carolina medical marijuana legalization bill as amended by the committee by following title link and scrolling to the bottom of the article.
 

momofthegoons

Vapor Accessory Addict
Staff member

North Carolina Senators Act On Revised Medical Marijuana Legalization Bill In Committee


North Carolina senators on Wednesday took action on a revised bill to legalize medical marijuana.

An earlier version of the reform legislation cleared the same panel and another committee last month, but it was rereferred back to Judiciary earlier this month. Members accepted the revisions in the new version of the bill, setting it up for formal approval at a subsequent meeting.

Under the proposal, sponsored by Rules Committee Chairman Bill Rabon (R), patients would be allowed to access cannabis if they have a “debilitating medical condition” such as cancer, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and post-traumatic stress disorder. The committee substitute now 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.

Rabon told fellow lawmakers that the overall new revisions are intended to “make sure that this will be the best bill of its kind” among state medical cannabis laws.

Under the legislation, patients could possess up to one and a half ounces of cannabis, but home cultivation would not be permitted.

The definition of what constitutes a “cannabis-infused” product was changed in the latest substitute version. Such products include “a tablet, a capsule, a concentrated liquid or viscous oil, a liquid suspension, a topical preparation, a transdermal preparation, a sublingual preparation, a gelatinous cube, gelatinous rectangular cuboid, lozenge in a cube or rectangular cuboid shape, a resin or wax.”

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

The bill provides for up to 10 medical marijuana suppliers who control the cultivation and sale of cannabis. Each supplier can operate up to four dispensaries.

A 13-member Compassionate Use Advisory Board would be established, and it could add new qualifying medical conditions.

Separately, a nine-member Medical Cannabis Production Commission would be created to ensure that there’s an adequate supply of cannabis for patients, oversee licensing and generate enough revenue to regulate the program.

Advocates are encouraged by the bill’s advancement, but they’re still hoping to see further revisions to expand the proposed program and promote social equity.

“We hope to see increased opportunities for independent local businesses and persons with prior convictions in the industry included in future iterations of the bill,” DeVaughn Ward, senior legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana Moment.

“Also, the inclusion of chronic pain as a qualifying condition would be welcomed, as many patients that suffer from chronic pain find cannabis to be safer than opioids or other pain medications,” he said. “However, the substitute bill as a whole is an improvement over the status quo.”


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.”

There are also new protections for patients included in the latest version. It stipulates that employees and agents of the state must treat possession of cannabis for qualified patients the same as any other prescribed controlled substance.

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

A previous committee-approved change would enhance penalties for unlawful offenses such as trafficking medical marijuana, applying a more severe punishment than illegally dealing in non-medical cannabis.

After being formally approved by the Judiciary panel again, it must still clear the Senate Health Care and Rules and Operations Committees in order to reach the floor.

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.

A separate medical cannabis bill, adult-use marijuana legalization measures and several pieces of cannabis decriminalization legislation have also been introduced in recent months—though they would likely face an uphill battle in the GOP-controlled legislature.

While advocates have their doubts about broad reform being enacted in North Carolina this session, Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R) recently acknowledged that opinions are shifting when it comes to marijuana in the state, and he said that Rabon specifically “for a long time has looked at the issue.”

“I do sense that public opinion is changing on marijuana—both medical and recreational,” Rabon said previously. “I don’t know where the members of the General Assembly are at this time in terms of support for the bill, but it’s something we’ll look at and we’ll see how things move along.”

Pressure to end criminalization is also building regionally.

Neighboring Virginia became the first state in the south to legalize marijuana for recreational use in April and that law took effect in July, for example. And the sponsor of a South Carolina medical cannabis legalization bill said he’s received assurances from a top Senate leader that his measure will be taken up as the first order of business at the beginning of next year.

A task force convened by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) backed decriminalization as part of a series of policy recommendations on racial equity that were released late last year. The group also said prior cannabis convictions should be expunged and the state should consider whether to more broadly legalize marijuana.

Under current law, possessing more than half an ounce up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis is a class 1 misdemeanor, subject to up to 45 days imprisonment and a $200 fine. In 2019, there were 3,422 such charges and 1,909 convictions, with 70 percent of those convicted being nonwhite.
 

momofthegoons

Vapor Accessory Addict
Staff member

Third North Carolina Senate Committee Approves Medical Marijuana Legalization Bill


Another North Carolina Senate committee has approved a bill to legalize marijuana, getting the measure one step closer to the floor.

Members of the Senate Health Care Committee on Thursday advanced the legislation in a voice vote. This comes two days after the Judiciary Committee cleared the bill, which followed a meeting of the panel where members accepted changes.

An earlier version of the reform legislation cleared Judiciary and the Finance Committee last month, but it was rereferred back to the former panel for this week’s revisions. The measure must still pass the Senate Rules and Operations Committee—which is chaired by bill sponsor Sen. Bill Rabon (R)—in order to reach the floor before potentially heading to the House of Representatives and then to the governor’s desk.

“The reason that we’re doing this is to provide access to those who really need it,” Sen. Michael Lee (R), who presented the bill on Thursday, said before the vote. “This is not a legalization of cannabis. What this is is an availability of a particular product—you can call it a medicine, you can call it a remedy, you can call it whatever you want—but the folks that I’ve spoken to that have the debilitating conditions that are outlined in the bill really, really know it works for them, and improves their quality of life.”

Under the proposal, patients would be allowed to access cannabis if they have a “debilitating medical condition” such as cancer, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and post-traumatic stress disorder. The committee substitute adopted earlier this week by Judiciary changes the list somewhat to allow 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 could possess up to one and a half ounces of marijuana, but home cultivation would not be permitted.

The definition of what constitutes a “cannabis-infused” product was also changed in the latest substitute version. Such products include “a tablet, a capsule, a concentrated liquid or viscous oil, a liquid suspension, a topical preparation, a transdermal preparation, a sublingual preparation, a gelatinous cube, gelatinous rectangular cuboid, lozenge in a cube or rectangular cuboid shape, a resin or wax.”

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

Lee offered four amendment in committee on Thursday that the panel accepted with voice votes.

One would modify the membership of the cannabis advisory board, stipulate that physicians must be in good standing with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration to recommend marijuana and outline requirements for continuing education for doctors, as well as require that they be located in the state of North Carolina.

Another amendment changes the membership of the regulatory body that would oversee the program and directs officials to set certain rules on an expedited basis. It also specifies requirements for the seed-to-sale tracking system and adds conflicts of interest provisions, as well as performance and reporting requirements for licensees.

A third amendment adds requirements for businesses on location, hours of operation, visibility and advertising. It further adds minimum standards on testing.

Finally, the panel approved a revision to modify annual report requirements and protect researchers from criminal liability for possessing cannabis for studies.

The bill provides for up to 10 medical marijuana suppliers who control the cultivation and sale of cannabis. Each supplier can operate up to four dispensaries.

But advocates have taken issue with provisions on who would be eligible for such licenses, as the measure stipulates that applicants must provide documentation showing they have at least five years of experience “in cultivation, production, extraction, product development, quality control, and inventory management of medical cannabis in a state-licensed medical or adult use cannabis operation.”

That would effectively mean that the licenses and dispensaries would be exclusively operated by established, out-of-state marijuana businesses—a major issue for advocates who feel this unfairly alienates small, in-state businesses.

Under the bill, a Compassionate Use Advisory Board would be established, and it could add new qualifying medical conditions.

Separately, a Medical Cannabis Production Commission would be created to ensure that there’s an adequate supply of cannabis for patients, oversee licensing and generate enough revenue to regulate the program.

Advocates are still hoping to see further revisions to expand the proposed program and promote social equity.

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.”

There are also protections for patients included in the latest version. It stipulates that employees and agents of the state must treat possession of cannabis for qualified patients the same as any other prescribed controlled substance.

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

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.

A separate medical cannabis bill, adult-use marijuana legalization measures and several pieces of cannabis decriminalization legislation have also been introduced in recent months—though they would likely face an uphill battle in the GOP-controlled legislature.

While advocates have their doubts about broad reform being enacted in North Carolina this session, Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R) recently acknowledged that opinions are shifting when it comes to marijuana in the state, and he said that Rabon specifically “for a long time has looked at the issue.”

“I do sense that public opinion is changing on marijuana—both medical and recreational,” Rabon said previously. “I don’t know where the members of the General Assembly are at this time in terms of support for the bill, but it’s something we’ll look at and we’ll see how things move along.”

Pressure to end criminalization is also building regionally.

Neighboring Virginia became the first state in the south to legalize marijuana for recreational use in April and that law took effect in July, for example. And the sponsor of a South Carolina medical cannabis legalization bill said he’s received assurances from a top Senate leader that his measure will be taken up as the first order of business at the beginning of next year.

A task force convened by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) backed decriminalization as part of a series of policy recommendations on racial equity that were released late last year. The group also said prior cannabis convictions should be expunged and the state should consider whether to more broadly legalize marijuana.

Under current law, possessing more than half an ounce up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis is a class 1 misdemeanor, subject to up to 45 days imprisonment and a $200 fine. In 2019, there were 3,422 such charges and 1,909 convictions, with 70 percent of those convicted being nonwhite.
 

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