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Tuesday, June 25, 2024 | Back issues
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North Carolina Senate moves toward legalizing medical marijuana

The North Carolina Senate has moved forward with a bill to legalize medical marijuana, but the measure lacks support in the House.

RALEIGH, N.C. (CN) — The North Carolina Senate passed a bill Monday night that would impose restrictions on the hemp industry and legalize medical marijuana. 

The bill, which passed 36-10, establishes a legal limit on the consumable concentration of THC that can be sold, allowing edible products to have a THC concentration up to 0.3%. It also allows doctors to prescribe medical cannabis to patients who have debilitating health conditions.

The bill, which had bipartisan backing, will now be sent back to the House. Despite the fact that both chambers have Republican majorities, the House is not expected to take the bill up for a vote, as Speaker Tim Moore has said that the House lacks Republican support to take up the measure. 

“I have said since day one, that as a representative I support the medical cannabis use with appropriate supervision. I don't have an issue with it,” said Moore. “But it has been a very divisive issue in our caucus.” 

Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger said he considered the bill to be the “right thing to do” and that he hoped the House would take it up. 

Some Senate Republicans, however, were staunchly against the measure. 

“Marijuana is not a medicine,” argued Senator Norman Sanderson on the floor. “It’s not FDA approved. It can’t be prescribed by a doctor, it can’t be filled by pharmacists. It’s not medicine.” 

“I have done research for marijuana for years, especially the last six years,” said Sanderson. “What I’ve found is it causes more harm than good.” 

He called the bill a mistake, warning senators that, once passed, there would be no walking back the legalization. 

Democrats voiced support for the legislation but also raised concerns that protections for children weren’t strong enough. 

“I support the provision of the bill regarding medical cannabis, but there is still real work to be done to better protect kids given the bill’s authorization of adult use intoxicating cannabis in North Carolina,” said Attorney General Josh Stein in a statement. “I call on the General Assembly to do so. We can and must do more to keep kids safe from THC access and poisoning.”

The bill requires cannabis products to have child-resistant packaging. Medical cannabis must also be placed in additional exit packaging that is also child-resistant. Edible cannabis and cannabis-infused products cannot be designed to appeal to children, and cartoons, toys, and candy cannot be depicted on the labels. 

The bill would also prevent the legalization of recreational marijuana if it was federally recognized, a last-minute amendment Monday night, which raised challenges from Democrats, who contended that federal law would supersede state law. 

If passed, the legislation would create the Compassionate Care Act, which would allow physicians to prescribe cannabis and infused products to patients with debilitating medical conditions such as cancer, sickle cell anemia and Parkinson's disease. Patients in hospice care or who have a terminal illness with a life expectancy of less than six months would also be eligible to be prescribed medical cannabis. Providers would give the patient with a written certificate detailing their dosage and the delivery method of cannabis, which they could purchase from medical cannabis centers. 

Those centers would be heavily restricted and unable to advertise in public spaces, on TV, in print or online. They would not be allowed to claim their product has health benefits, and would be required to make their logo and signage “tasteful” and medically focused, without marijuana leaves or neon signage on their packaging, logos and buildings. 

The bill would also enact restrictions on the hemp industry. It would make 21 the minimum age to purchase consumable hemp products, require identification to be presented at purchase or delivery, and create criminal penalties for adults who give products to minors.  

The bill also gives the state the ability to generate tax revenue from the cannabis industry, as all consumable cannabis products would have a 10.5% state tax. Suppliers would also pay a fee of 10% of their gross revenue from their sale of cannabis and cannabis products. 

Suppliers and manufacturers would be required to submit monthly financial reports to the Department of Revenue and quarterly reports of products that are sold and manufactured. 

“Medical marijuana is important,” said Democrat Senator Gladys Robinson. “But I do want to also urge us to make sure we put in place safeguards in terms of hemp.” 

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Categories / Government, Health, Politics, Regional

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