RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – After two months of hearings on a bill to legalize medical marijuana in North Carolina, it’s unclear when, or even if, the bill will actually get a vote on the floor of the Senate.
While some Republicans in the Senate have led the effort to pass the bill, others voiced concerns this week that it would ultimately put the state on the path to full legalization.
“The purpose of this bill, is there are people who want legalization of marijuana, and this is their first step,” Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell) said. “I think they use these people who are suffering from these serious diseases to further their agenda.”
On Thursday, Republican Senate leader Phil Berger said no decision has been made about whether the bill will reach the floor of the chamber for a vote or when that would happen.
“We have had what I think has been an open and thorough examination of the issue,” he said. “The bill has gone through several iterations in the committee process.”
Last week, Berger took the unusual step of moving forward with a vote on a bill to legalize sports betting even though most members of his party opposed it.
When asked if he would do the same with the medical marijuana bill, he said, “I’m just not going to get into hypotheticals about what might happen. The bill is where it is. We’ll see what happens as it goes forward.”
The bill passed out of the Senate Health Committee Thursday with some additional changes made to include limiting sales from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and to say that medical cannabis centers could not be located within 1,000 feet of churches, schools and child care facilities.
The last committee it has to go through is the Senate Rules Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick), a lead sponsor of the bill.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 36 other states have legalized the medical use of cannabis. Eighteen states, including Virginia, have legalized it for recreational use. In Virginia, sales will not be legal until Jan. 1, 2024.
Michael Monfort, of Holly Springs, is advocating for the bill to pass, saying cannabis has helped him as he copes with multiple sclerosis.
“My spasms are very bad. They’re so bad at night that I could not even stay in bed,” he said. “Finally, I was asleep in bed again and wake up the next day feeling refreshed. I was never able to do that with any of the other medications.”
Army veteran Samuel Roberts said another veteran first told him about the potential benefits of marijuana to help with the impacts of post-traumatic stress disorder.
“There seems to be a lot of ignorance around the issue. People don’t know enough about it,” Roberts said. “Now, this isn’t going to fix everything. But, it will help.”
The bill that’s pending would allow marijuana to be used for a variety of “debilitating medical conditions.” Among them: cancer, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, PTSD and others. An advisory board would be established that could add conditions to the list.
Sen. Jim Burgin, a Republican who represents Harnett, Johnston and Lee counties, outlined a variety of concerns, saying he’s heard from the sheriffs in each of those counties that they’re opposed.
He raised concerns about people being able to get licenses from the state and then being able to sell those licenses.
“We need to figure out how to take the profit motive out of it if it is ever done because if we do this I think we’ll have legalized marijuana in this state in 24 months,” he said.