- D.H. Reilly
Who Actually Supports Medical Marijuana in North Carolina?
When it comes to navigating the ins-and-outs of getting a North Carolina Marijuana Card, you know we’ve got your back. Unfortunately, it can be harder to know what politicians are going to support giving you access to the natural relief of cannabis.
State Senator Jeff Jackson, a Democrat from Charlotte, recently launched his campaign for the U.S. Senate, and he has made marijuana legalization part of his platform.
But as Charlotte’s NPR affiliate WFAE has pointed out, Jackson doesn’t exactly have a track record of marijuana support to match his words.
Before SB 711 (the medical marijuana bill currently being considered in the Senate) began gaining support, Democrats in the chamber had already introduced their own medical marijuana bill. Jackson did not sponsor the Democrats’ version, nor has he sponsored SB 711, despite the fact that four Dems have signed on to co-sponsor the Republican-led SB 711.
So how is a North Carolinian supposed to know who will really fight for their right to find relief and who is a Johnny-come-lately? It can be tough, so we decided to spotlight a few of the Tar Heel State politicians who have walked the walk on medical marijuana.
N.C. Democrats Have Traditionally Been More Supportive of Medical Marijuana
While there have been other attempts in the past to legalize medical marijuana here, none have come as close to passage as SB 711. That may be because past efforts were Democrat-led, whereas SB 711 is a Republican-led effort.
In our deep red state, Democratic bills tend to die without ever getting voted on by an entire chamber of the legislature. For example, in 2014, Democrats in the House proposed HB 1380, a medical marijuana bill that was then killed in the House Rules Committee with limited debate. Furthermore, Republicans in the committee voted to ban the introduction of new medical marijuana bills for at least two years.
“If it’s a Republican leadership on a Republican bill it gets consideration. If it’s a Democrat bill, it gets shoved around and thrown in the trash. And usually what they do is send the bill to the rules committee and let it sit there – forever. It just sits there and dies when the session dies,” said Ben Scales at the time. Scales, an Asheville criminal defense attorney, authored the bill.
SB 711 Has a Fighting Chance Because of Republican Support
The tide seemed to turn this year. As the Raleigh News & Observer put it, “Earlier this spring, Democrats at the state legislature filed the same marijuana bills they have for the past several years. They knew they didn’t have the power to pass any of them but were signaling to their supporters that they were at least trying to start a conversation. But then came Senate Bill 711, whose innocuous title, ‘NC Compassionate Care Act,’ belied how much it would upend the conservative majority at the N.C. General Assembly.”
A Covert Cannabis Champion Goes Public
State Senator Bill Rabon has been the major force behind SB 711. As the Chairman of the Rules Committee, the same committee that killed legalization efforts in 2014, he is one of the most powerful lawmakers in the state. He co-sponsored the bill, and has been guiding its progress.
Rabon says he has been supporting medical marijuana, behind the scenes since 2010, “But he finally decided this year that things wouldn’t change unless he was willing to put his name on it publicly.”
Personal Hardships Convince Legislator that Maybe North Carolinians Deserve Relief
Rabon’s co-sponsor is another GOP powerhouse, Senate Majority Leader Kathy Harrington of Raleigh.
Harrington told the News & Observer that she wouldn’t have supported the bill just six months before she sponsored it. But during that time, Harrington’s husband was diagnosed with a rare blood cancer, and in researching his treatment options and discussing medical marijuana with some GOP colleagues, she became convinced that the medicine was safe and effective.
One wonders how much more relief North Carolinians could have enjoyed if Harrington had been moved to research a major medical issue before it had affected her personally, but better late than never, one supposes.
Once Again, a Support for Veterans Turns to Support for Medical Marijuana
We told you last month that the support of veterans has been integral in passing state medical marijuana laws, and that they were predicted to continue to be influential in establishing medical marijuana markets in those holdout states in the South.
And here is yet another example of how proximity to military issues and stories often turns to support for medical marijuana. One of SB 711’s champions has been Senator Mike Lazzara, who represents Onslow County, home to Camp Lejeune and a large number of Marine veterans.
“They’re coming home and being treated for PTSD, TBI and many other ailments with extremely powerful drugs,” Lazzara told the News & Observer of veterans. “Antidepressants, Oxycontin, Percocet. And they’re in extreme pain. Our suicide rates are through the roof, and they continue to get worse. Studies have shown that medical cannabis is a great reliever in lieu of these very powerful drugs.”
The Most Powerful Supporters of Medical Marijuana are North Carolinians Like You
But the most powerful medical marijuana champions are just normal, everyday North Carolinians.
Ben Scales, the author of the ill-fated HB 1380 that was killed by the House Rules Committee in 2014, said that originally the committee didn’t even plan to vote on the bill, but were instead going to let it just sit in the committee until the end of the session.
“But the people, the supporters of medical marijuana around the state, wouldn’t let that happen, and our network of people let the phone number of the people on the rules committee be known so they could call and say, ‘Hey, put this bill to a vote,’ and they did,” Scales told The Blue Banner, the student newspaper of UNC Asheville.
And while that effort was ultimately futile, it made it as far as it did because it had public support as well as the support of House Democrats.
And SB 711 has public support, the support of House Democrats, and a significant number of House GOP.
It is looking like a new day for medical marijuana in the Tar Heel State.
Get Ready for That New Day with a North Carolina Marijuana Card
While nothing is over until it’s over, and medical marijuana is still some time off from being available here even if SB 711 should pass, you can start getting ready for relief right now.
Reserve an evaluation today with one of our compassionate doctors, and we’ll book an appointment for you just as soon as North Carolina’s medical marijuana market is up and running.
You’ll meet with your doctor virtually using your computer or smartphone for a telemedicine appointment. Not only will you discuss your condition and what medical marijuana could do for you from the comfort of your own home, 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!