- D.H. Reilly
The State of Medical Marijuana in North Carolina
The good news is that we came closer to being able to get a North Carolina Marijuana Card last year than ever before. The better news is that the bill in question isn’t dead yet, and even opponents of medical marijuana expect it to be on the agenda for this upcoming legislative session, which begins on May 18.
In the words of the Raleigh News & Observer, the North Carolina Compassionate Care Act “sailed through multiple committees” in the Senate last year, when no other marijuana legalization bill had ever passed out of a single Senate committee before. Unfortunately, the bill’s progress eventually came to a halt for reasons that are still uncertain. Now however, circumstances are lining up to make its passage in 2022 seem even more likely than it did in 2021.
Reasons for North Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill’s Failure in 2021 Unclear
We told you before how the Compassionate Care Act seemed destined for success in the Senate after it cleared multiple committees and found itself awaiting approval from the Rules and Operations Committee.
That committee is headed up by Bill Rabon, the primary sponsor of the bill, and so when the Compassionate Care Act landed at its final committee stop, it was assumed that “it was virtually guaranteed to pass and head to the floor for a vote by the full Senate,” in the words of the Raleigh News & Observer.
That vote never happened, however, and the bill languished in committee through the rest of the 2021 legislative session.
Cause of Medical Marijuana Bill’s Death Last Session Still Unclear
While the exact reason the Compassionate Care Act died in Rabon’s committee last session, the News & Observer has offered two plausible explanations.
First, when the bill hit Rabon’s committee in August, the state budget was already two months late, and lawmakers were preparing for the time-consuming redistricting process. It’s possible that lawmakers the Compassionate Care Act got lost in the legislative shuffle last season as lawmakers grappled with these complex and time-sensitive matters.
The second hypothesis the newspaper suggested was that old-fashioned politics derailed the bill. The News and Observer pointed out that “there is sometimes a philosophy in legislative politics that a bill should never be allowed to go up for a vote unless at least half of the majority party supports it,” as it would look like the ruling party wasn’t unified in its legislative agenda and gave away a victory to the Democrats. It’s believed that this same kind of lawmaking gamesmanship is what killed a 2019 constitutional amendment for redistricting reform, which was never even given a committee hearing despite having a GOP sponsor and the support of more than half of the House.
Medical Marijuana Bill Sponsor Determined to “Get this Bill Right”
Senator Rabon declined to speak with the News and Observer for their most recent story about the Compassionate Care Act, but in a written statement to the newspaper he said he has not stopped working on the bill since last session, constantly tweaking it in collaboration with his GOP colleagues in an attempt to strengthen both the law and its chances of passing. “Other states that have passed medical marijuana bills have had to adjust over time because their laws had unintended consequences,” Rabon said. “My goal is to get this bill right the first time.”
Medical Marijuana Bill Expected to Return This Session, With Ample Support
The good news for those who would like to see suffering North Carolinians find relief is that the Compassionate Care Act is expected to be taken up by the Senate again when the 2022 session begins later this month. That shouldn’t surprise anyone, given the massive support the bill has, both inside and outside of the Senate.
Compassionate Care Act Enjoys Support from Most Senators
One place where the Compassionate Care Act is popular is the Senate itself, which should give medical marijuana supporters some encouragement. However, it is unclear exactly how much support the bill has among GOP senators, with most remaining tight-lipped and several others staunchly opposing legalization.
Senate Leader Phil Berger has said publicly that he supports the bill and will work to pass it. Two of his biggest allies, however, are split on the issue. Majority Leader Kathy Harrington supports the Compassionate Care Act, while Deputy President Pro Tempore Ralph Hise opposes it.
Still, it is believed that the bill has enough votes in the Senate to pass, leaving opponents clutching on to partisan tricks over doing the work of their constituents. For example, according to the News & Observer, the Reverend Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, is hanging his hopes on the possibility that Republicans will refuse to bring the bill up for a full Senate vote because less than half of them are in favor of medical marijuana.
Creech, who is an ardent opponent of doctors and their adult patients having the final say in how what medicines they use, told the newspaper that “If in the spring, the legislation does move again, passing out of the Senate Rules Committee and to the floor, I think it would pass largely with Democrat support. I think there would be only a minority of Republicans who would vote for it.”
Others believe the Senate support for medical marijuana will be sufficient to send the bill on to the House. One of the bill’s sponsors, Senator Wiley Nickel, told North Carolina Health News, “This is a bill that is moving in the right direction, with lots of good, important support in a bipartisan manner. And I’m very hopeful that we will pass that bill when we return.”
Fortunately, the senators who do support medical marijuana may be bolstered by the tremendous support the medicine enjoys outside of the halls of the General Assembly.
North Carolina Veterans Want Medical Marijuana
We’ve told you before how moving North Carolina veterans have been in advocating for medical marijuana to state lawmakers. Well that veteran support for safe, effective medicine hasn’t wavered, and in a state that calls itself “the most veteran-friendly state,” their support could have a big impact on how the Senate proceeds with the Compassionate Care Act.
Garrett Perdue, a medical marijuana advocate and the son of former governor Bev Perdue, told the Observer that he thought the Compassionate Care Acts odds were good in the Senate because of testimony lawmakers heard last session from veterans. He said that testimony from veterans who said that marijuana eased their suicidal thoughts when no pharmaceuticals could was especially powerful. “I don’t know how you can call yourself the most veteran-friendly state and don’t allow veterans to have access to these products,” he said.
According to the News and Observer, “During last year’s hearings, numerous veterans came forward to speak about their struggles with suicidal thoughts, before revealing that they only improved once they started illegally using marijuana.”
“On that day my life changed for the better,” Gary Hess, a Marine with Middle Eastern combat experience, told lawmakers last year. “It empowered me. It gave me hope. It gave my wife hope.”
And his courage in sharing his story, and the courage of his colleagues who did the same, should give hope to all North Carolinians who are suffering from conditions that medical marijuana can safely and effectively treat.
North Carolina Voters Want Medical Marijuana
Speaking of all North Carolinians, that brings us to perhaps the most powerful force compelling the passage of the Compassionate Care Act: Tar Heel State residents support medical marijuana.
While an Emerson College poll last month found that North Carolina voters were split on recreational marijuana - 46% favor legalizing, whereas 43% are opposed - the story is decidedly different when it comes to medical marijuana.
According to Emerson’s findings, nearly 70% of Tar Heel State voters support legalizing medical marijuana. That finding is similar to earlier polls which also found that kind of overwhelming support for the much maligned medicine. WRAL, Raleigh’s NBC affiliate, found support for medical marijuana here was at 72% last month. An Elon University poll from February 2021 put that number at 73%.
Regardless of what the exact percentage of North Carolinians who support medical marijuana is, one fact remains clear: Enough voters here want medical marijuana that either state lawmakers will give them what they want, or the voters will give those legislators their pink slips.
Don’t Wait for the Results of This Session; Start Your Medical Marijuana Journey Today
Why wait for North Carolina to catch up with the thirty-six other states that have medical marijuana laws already? If you have one of the qualifying conditions, and you’re wondering if medical marijuana might be for you, start getting the answers you need today!
Reserve an evaluation online today, and we’ll book an appointment for you with one of our knowledgeable, compassionate doctors just as soon as North Carolina’s medical marijuana market is up and running.
You’ll meet with your new doctor virtually, using your smartphone or computer for a telemedicine appointment. You’ll learn if you qualify for a North Carolina Marijuana Card and get all of your questions answered, all without even leaving your home. And you’ll even save $25 off the cost of the 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 the 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!