North Carolina medical marijuana program may soon become reality
Efforts to implement a medical marijuana program in North Carolina have taken some time, but all that time and energy appears to be paying off. Currently, a medical marijuana measure is working its way through the General Assembly and will likely pass just as support for the substance rapidly grows in the state. A recent poll found that 73% of North Carolina residents support legalizing the medical use of marijuana, while 54% fully support legalizing recreational use for adults in the state.
The proposed legislation in North Carolina will initially institute a medical marijuana program that is very limited. There will only be a number of qualifying conditions, including cancer, epilepsy, PTSD, HIV/AIDS, Crohn’s, and Parkinson’s disease. The legislation is primarily sponsored by Senator Bill Rabon, Chairman of the Republican Senate Rules committee.
North Carolina Senate Bill 711, the North Carolina Compassionate Care Act, identifies protecting patients and doctors from criminal and civil penalties as its primary purpose. The bill recognizes that their right to implement a medical marijuana program is protected by the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, and the bill only applies to cannabis for medicinal use.
Marijuana currently remains illegal in the state, with possession of marijuana strains of an ounce to 1.5 ounces being a class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to 45 day in jail and a $200 fine. North Carolina is one of only 14 states in the country to not have instituted a medical marijuana program, though efforts to do so have been made in the past.
While S711 is positioned to pass, it faces just one more obstacle: The Hastert Rule. This rule asserts that the President Pro Tempore will not hold a vote on the floor unless the legislation has majority support within the Republican Party. It does not matter that a majority of all members of the chamber would vote to pass. As it stands, 15 of the 28 Republican members of the chamber would need to show support for the bill for it to be scheduled for a vote.