On Wednesday, June 30th, a Senate committee approved Senate Bill 711, a bi-partisan measure which would legalize medical marijuana in North Carolina. While we wait for the MORE Act to gain traction at the federal level, this medical bill could be a step in the right direction for our state.
The measure is being sponsored by Rules Committee Chairman Bill Rabon, who explained the purpose of the bill was to allow North Carolinians with “debilitating health conditions” to have access to alternative treatment options. Rabon is also a cancer survivor, who experienced firsthand the healing power of medical marjunana during his recovery.
He explained ahead of the committee vote: “I will say again that the time has come—that this needs to be discussed and we need to compassionately care for our fellow man in any way that we can and any way that we can, as a body, make it legal.”. While the committee voted to approve the bill, it has a long way to go before becoming law.
What Does Senate Bill 711 Include?
Senate Bill 711 would allow qualified North Carolina residents to obtain regulated, high quality medical marjunana, products in a safe, medical setting. The bill defines medical marijuana as “medical cannabis”, and as part of the bill, a Medical Cannabis Advisory Board will be established to review possible qualifying conditions and hear petitions from citizens, businesses and advocacy groups alike.
The bill also would help establish a Medical Cannabis Production Commission to properly oversee and regulate the quality of medical marjunana products being sold in North Carolina. They would also ensure that the process for obtaining a medical cannabis card will be safe, regulated and legitimate.
Research is also a main focus for the bill. Plans for a North Carolina Cannabis Research Program to be established signals that our state plans to be at the forefront of cannabis research for medicinal use, along with other legal cannabis states.
Many details regarding legal violations, trafficking offenses and physician regulation are still being finalized, but lawmakers are hopeful that this bill is a huge step for the state.
Next Steps and Possible Regulations
Unfortunately, many bills die in committees before even making it to the Senate floor for a vote. The bill must move through three additional committees (or panels) before being brought to the main Senate floor for a vote, including the Senate Finance, Healthcare and Rules and Operations committees.
It’s no secret that the stigma around medical marijuana is changing in North Carolina. With bi-partisan support and with 75 percent of North Carolina residents supporting medical cannabis, this bill seems promising according to lawmakers.
Good for only some patients.
One of the main factors of getting the bill to move forward is how the state will regulate who can gain access to medical marjunana or medical cannabis. The first step is to classify what “debilitating medical conditions” apply. So far, only a small number of major conditions such as cancer, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy or Multiple Sclerosis, have been discussed.
However, many North Carolinians suffering from mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, and pre-existing conditions are concerned that it may be hard for them to obtain a medical cannabis card. Cannabis users are hoping that more conditions will be added to the bill after its approval on the Senate floor.
As written SB711 lists only seven specific debilitating qualifying medical conditions, which include: cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. While leaving a large number of routinely qualifying conditions of the list, including chronic pain, anxiety, and insomnia; for which medical marijuana has been found to be very effective.
Bad for local business.
The bill seems to indicate that only a small number of large vertically-aligned farming companies would control and profit from the state’s entire medical marijuana industry, from “seed to shelf”. (think Big Tobacco & Big Pharma). This model for legalized medical marijuana is very rare throughout the other 29+ states that currently have legalized medical marijuana programs.
This restrictive model means thousands of local farmers and businesses with dreams of participating in our state’s legal medical cannabis program will have no chance of doing so. Medical marijuana programs in the vast majority of states have elected to use a localized business application process that allows local farmers and retail establishments to apply for permits as legal medical marijuana growers and medical marijuana dispensaries. Many opponents to the current bill hope for a more open model that would allow more qualifying patients and local business opportunities to participate.
While the future of medical marijuana in North Carolina is uncertain, you can still use your favorite hemp, CBD and delta 8 THC products while we wait. If you have questions about any and all cannabis products, or want to know the latest in the cannabis industry, stop by Modern Apotheca’s North Raleigh storefront, we’ll be happy to answer all your questions.