Federal government and governor of California explore rules for medical marijuana use in hospitals
A North Carolina Senate committee on Tuesday approved a revised bill to legalize medical marijuana in the state.
It comes a week after the panel held a hearing to discuss the legislation and approve the changes, but members did not vote at that previous meeting. Senators advanced the measure this time in a voice vote.
A previous version of reform legislation cleared the judiciary and another committee last month, but it was fired earlier this month.
The bill has yet to allow Senate committees on health care and rules and operations to reach the ground before potentially going to the House of Representatives and then to the governor’s office.
“We are encouraged that SB711 has been brought forward by the Judiciary Committee,” DeVaughn Ward, senior legislative advisor for the Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana Moment. “It is a crucial obstacle which has been overcome on the road to full passage.”
Under the proposal, sponsored by rules committee chairman Bill Rabon (right), patients would be allowed access to cannabis if they suffered from a “debilitating medical condition” such as cancer, epilepsy , HIV / AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and post-traumatic stress disorder. stress disorder.
The committee’s surrogate has been amended to allow patients with terminal illnesses who have six months to live, as well as those with conditions requiring palliative care, to also be eligible for cannabis.
Patients could own up to an ounce and a half of cannabis, but home cultivation would not be allowed.
The definition of what constitutes a “cannabis infused” product has been changed in the latest alternative version. These products include “a tablet, capsule, concentrated liquid or viscous oil, liquid suspension, topical preparation, transdermal preparation, sublingual preparation, gelatinous cube, gelatinous rectangular cuboid, cube-shaped lozenge, or rectangular cuboid, a resin or a wax.
Smoking and vaping would also be allowed, but doctors would have to prescribe a patient-specific method of administration and dosages under the revised legislation. And they would need to reassess patient eligibility for the program at least once a year.
The bill provides for up to 10 medical marijuana vendors who control the cultivation and sale of cannabis. Each provider can operate up to four dispensaries.
But advocates have challenged the provisions on who is eligible for such licenses, as the measure requires applicants to provide documents proving they have at least five years of experience “in cultivation, production, mining. , product development, quality control and inventory. the management of medical cannabis in a state-approved medical or adult cannabis operation.
Oh my God. Was it written by marijuana companies? Is this a bill to regulate marijuana or to serve off-set profits to cannabis companies out of state?
– Title of Shaleen (@shaleentitle) August 24, 2021
This would effectively mean that licenses and dispensaries would be operated exclusively by out-of-state marijuana businesses – a major problem for advocates who believe this unfairly alienates small businesses from the state.
“While we strongly support the legalization of medical marijuana and the relief it will bring to patients in North Carolina, we remain concerned about the lack of opportunities for small independent businesses,” MP Ward said. .
During Tuesday’s hearing, members also agreed to an amendment backed by the state attorney general’s office that clarifies issues related to the probable cause of evidence obtained during the searches.
Under the bill, a 13-member compassionate use advisory council would be established and it could add new qualifying medical conditions.
Separately, a nine-member medical cannabis production commission would be created to ensure there is an adequate supply of cannabis for patients, oversee licensing, and generate enough revenue to regulate the program.
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Advocates still hope to see further revisions to expand the proposed program and promote social equity.
The measure would further establish a Cannabis Research Program in North Carolina to “undertake objective scientific research relating to the administration of cannabis or cannabis-infused products as part of medical treatment.”
There are also patient protections included in the latest version. It states that government employees and agents must treat possession of cannabis for qualified patients in the same way as any other prescribed controlled substance.
In addition, the bill includes restrictions on where marijuana can be smoked or vaped, and includes restrictions on the locations and hours of operation of medical cannabis businesses. It also allows regulators to “limit the number of written certifications a doctor can issue at any given time.”
A majority of North Carolina adults support the legalization of recreational marijuana – and three in four say it should be medically legal – according to a poll released in February.
A separate medical cannabis invoice, marijuana for adult use legalization measures and many rooms cannabis decriminalization legislation have also been introduced in recent months, although they likely face an uphill battle in the GOP-controlled legislature.
While advocates have doubts whether sweeping reform will pass in North Carolina this session, Pro Tempore Senate Speaker Phil Berger (R) recently acknowledged that opinions are changing regarding marijuana in the ‘State, and he said that Rabon specifically “for a long time has been considering the matter.
“I feel that public opinion is changing on marijuana, both medical and recreational,” Rabon said previously. “I don’t know where the members of the General Assembly are at the moment in terms of support for the bill, but it is something that we will look at and see how things develop.”
Pressure to end criminalization is also increasing at the regional level.
Neighboring Virginia became the first southern state to legalize recreational marijuana in April, and that law came into effect in July, for example. And the sponsor of a medical cannabis legalization bill in South Carolina said he had received assurances from a senior Senate official that his measure would be considered the first order of the day at the start of this year. next year.
A task force convened by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) supported decriminalization as part of a series of racial equity policy recommendations that were released late last year. The group also said previous cannabis convictions should be struck down and the state should consider legalizing marijuana more broadly.
Under current law, possessing more than half an ounce up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis is a Class 1 offense, punishable by imprisonment for up to 45 days and a $ 200 fine. In 2019, there were 3,422 of these charges and 1,909 convictions, with 70% of those convicted not being white.
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Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.