North Carolina Farmers Fear Medical Marijuana Bill May Lock Them Out of the Market
If you’ve been dreaming of the day you’ll be able to get your very own North Carolina Marijuana Card, you are probably aware of the biggest problem with the medical marijuana bill currently awaiting debate in the House: It isn’t likely to pass in 2022.
We’ve explained that SB 711, the Compassionate Care Act, looked like it would clear the Senate and head to the House. And indeed, that’s exactly what happened. Unfortunately, it now appears that SB 711 will be dead until at least 2023, as the House has opted not to take it up this session.
Even if SB 711 were to pass into law, one group of North Carolinians claims that the bill is unfair to them: the state’s hemp farmers.
Hemp Farmers Say Medical Marijuana Bill Locks Them Out
According to WRAL, Raleigh’s NBC affiliate, many North Carolina hemp farmers have been hoping to use their experience with medical marijuana’s cousin to start growing the real thing once we finally join the thirty-seven other states that are already enjoying the many benefits of medical marijuana.
Unfortunately, those farmers now say that SB 711 would lock them out of the state’s medical marijuana market, opening it instead for out-of-state operations and “Big Cannabis.”
Lawmakers Say Regulations for Growers in Medical Marijuana Bill Is Necessary to Ensure Medical Quality
One condition in the bill that concerns our hemp farmers is the need for “licensees (to be) experienced in producing pharmaceutical-grade marijuana.”
“We went back and forth on that (requirement),” Senator Mike Lee, a co-sponsor of SB 711, told WRAL. “The idea was to get folks who had experience in the production of pharmaceutical grade marijuana.”
“A lot of people feel like (medical marijuana) will be grown and dealt with like you deal with tobacco,” Senator Paul Lowe, of Forsyth, told WRAL “but it’s a medical-grade product.”
Unfortunately, growing marijuana of any sort is currently illegal in North Carolina and you’d be hard-pressed to find a hemp farmer here who is qualified to grow pharmaceutical-grade marijuana.
Farmers Say Bill Requirements Are a Gift to Big Out-of-State Growers
SB 711 also mandates that would-be growers have to be residents of North Carolina for at least two years. Further, applicants will need to have enough cash on hand to do business for two years. Finally, the bill requires evidence that applicants can “cultivate, produce and distribute medical cannabis.”
When you put those requirements together, some say that it shows that SB 711 is designed to exclude North Carolina farmers while privileging out-of-state operations.
If no growers in North Carolina have the experience to grow medical marijuana, then those farmers would have to partner with an out-of-state company that has the needed experience.
If applicants need to have money on hand to pay two years worth of operating expenses, then they will be more likely to team up with experienced out-of-state growers with unlimited amounts of capital.
North Carolina hemp farmers and retailers fear that the state’s medical marijuana program will come to be dominated by large, multi-state corporations, which has happened in many other states.
“It’s written by and for Big Cannabis,” Nicolette Baglio, who owns Citizen Bloom Botanics in Asheville, told WRAL.
SB 711 Limits Licensed Growers to Appeal to GOP Lawmakers, Who’ve Decided to Let the Bill Languish
SB 711 also limits the number of growers who will be licensed to do business in the state. Only ten companies will be allowed to cultivate medical marijuana, which SB 711 supporters in the General Assembly said was necessary to attract the level of support needed among GOP lawmakers to get the bill passed.
Senator Bill Rabon, SB 711’s primary sponsor, told WRAL that the limited number of licenses was also necessary to keep growers who were unprepared to be successful in the medical marijuana market from failing.
“Some of these people that think they want to be in the business, when they do their due diligence and their homework, they’re going to realize, ‘Boy, this is more than I can bite off,’” Rabon told WRAL. “We don’t want to have folks fail,” he said.
WRAL asked Senator Rabon why Republican lawmakers, who supposedly believe in free markets and deregulation, wouldn’t just let the market determine the winners and losers. Rabon said it is important to avoid the state’s medical marijuana market from becoming “the wild west.”
North Carolina Hemp Farmers Say Their Experience Would Make Them Great Candidates to Grow Medical Marijuana
North Carolina’s hemp market has proven to be highly competitive, and many growers have fallen by the wayside.
“Once a booming business in North Carolina,” WRAL reports, “the number of farms licensed to grow (hemp) has dropped from 1,525 in 2020 to 386 this year.”
Some people say that the farmers who have managed to succeed in North Carolina’s hemp market would be best positioned to make a go of it as medical marijuana farmers, as they’ve proven their ability to thrive in a highly competitive, cannabis-based market.
Andrew Wheeler, the owner of Arrowhead Hemp Farms in Asheville, told WRAL, “The hemp industry was tough. The people that are left in it, they’ve proven a couple of things. … (They) would all be great candidates (to grow medical marijuana).”
Wheeler also told WRAL that he doubts lawmakers will do right by the state’s farmers when it comes to medical marijuana. “I’d like it to be different, but I don’t hold my breath when it comes to North Carolina.”
Don’t Wait, Take Action Now!
Wheeler is right: you shouldn’t just hold your breath while you wait for lawmakers to do the right thing. Contact your elected officials and tell them you want medical marijuana, and you want it to be grown by North Carolina farmers!
As more states open their own medical marijuana markets and more and more people here demand the same, the pressure will ramp up on the prohibitionists until they have no choice but to actually listen to their constituents.
And don’t stop there! While you’re contacting your lawmakers, contact us as well! Schedule an evaluation online today with one of our knowledgeable, compassionate doctors! We’ll book an appointment for you just as soon as North Carolina’s medical marijuana market is up and running. Not only that, but you’ll save $25 off the cost of your evaluation!
Doctors Who Care. Relief You Can Trust.
Helping everyone achieve wellness safely and conveniently through increased access to medical marijuana. Our focus on education, inclusion, and acceptance will reduce stigma for our patients by providing equal access to timely information and compassionate care.
If you have any questions, call us at (833) 781-7320, or simply book a medical marijuana evaluation to start getting relief you can trust today!
Check out North Carolina Marijuana Card’s Blog to keep up to date on the latest medical marijuana news, tips, and information. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to join the medical marijuana conversation in North Carolina!