RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A key House committee will discuss a bill Tuesday that would legalize medical marijuana in North Carolina after Speaker Tim Moore said earlier this year it has “decent prospects of passing.”
The House was unwilling to consider the measure when the Senate passed the NC Compassionate Care Act last year. When the new legislative session began this year, the Senate moved quickly to pass it again in early March.
“I know it’s not the end of it, but it’s a great, great start to the end of it,” said Chris Suttle, a cancer survivor who has advocated for marijuana legalization for several years.
The House Health Committee will consider the bill at 10 a.m. Tuesday but will not vote on it.
The bill would allow marijuana to be used with a prescription to treat specific debilitating medical conditions such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease and post-traumatic stress disorder. A board would be established to consider whether to add more conditions in the future.
Under the bill, the state’s Medical Cannabis Production Commission would have the authority to grant up to 10 licenses to suppliers who would then be allowed to set up a maximum of eight medical cannabis centers.
The legislation also calls on the commission to give priority to suppliers who commit to setting up those centers in an equitable way throughout the state and to those who commit to establishing a center in more than one Tier 1 county. The North Carolina Department of Commerce says the state’s 40 most economically distressed counties are considered Tier 1 counties.
Lawmakers also approved adding a provision that would make it easier for law enforcement to verify with the state Department of Health and Human Services whether someone is a qualified patient in the medical cannabis registry database. People would have to carry a registry identification card with them if they’re carrying cannabis and show that to law enforcement when asked.
Some advocates for legalization have raised concerns that the tight controls that would be in place would make it difficult for many small business owners and entrepreneurs to get into the industry.
House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) told CBS 17 earlier this year that following last year’s election, it appears more members of his caucus now support legalization.
“I would say it’s got decent prospects of passing,” he said. “The biggest complaint I have heard from states that have done it is the proliferation of distribution sites.”
The bill has faced opposition from some conservative groups who say there’s insufficient evidence to support using marijuana for medicinal purposes.
“There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence but the claims have not withstood the test of scientific scrutiny,” Rev. Mark Creech, of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, said at a hearing earlier this year.
A recent poll by Meredith College found 73 percent of voters support legalizing medical marijuana, compared to 15 percent who oppose it.