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 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 Elon University poll of North Carolina voters 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."
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