With North Carolina's GOP-controlled legislature back in full swing, a bill to legalize medical marijuana is advancing quicker than many expected.
The N.C. Compassionate Care Act, sponsored by top Senate Republican and Rules Committee chair Sen. Bill Rabon, was heard in committee on Wednesday and will now head to the Senate floor where it is expected to pass.
The move comes after the bill was held up for months in Rabon's committee last year, most likely because it lacked support from some Republicans, but things have changed.
Program Among Strictest In Country
The bill would approve one of the strictest MMJ programs in the country if signed into law, though Rabon said they did their best
“It is my opinion that no state has done it as well as we are attempting to do it,” Rabon told colleagues prior to the committee vote. He called the bill the “tightest, best-written” cannabis legislation in any state.
What’s In It?
The bill would allow the medicinal use of cannabis for a narrow list of conditions, including cancer, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, HIV, AIDS and Crohn's disease. Chronic pain and anxiety are not included and the bill will not decriminalize recreational cannabis.
Why It Matters
North Carolina is one of the dwindling number of US states that have not approved some form of medical marijuana. And, with one of the most powerful state Republicans, Bill Rabon, leading the legalization effort, it seems the issue is no longer viewed as a political liability among conservatives, pointed out Axios Raleigh.
"All the polling that we've seen indicates that medical marijuana is supported across party lines," said Dylan Watts, state Senate Republican political director, per Axios. "The issue seems to have almost been desensitized across all demographics."
But, of course, the bill would still need to pass the House before it reaches Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who has not confirmed that he'd sign it.
What Do Voters Want?
In a poll commissioned by the Carolina Partnership for Reform, 82% of respondents said they supported legal medical marijuana.
"At this point, it seems pretty clear that it is only a matter of time until medical marijuana and recreational marijuana use are legalized in North Carolina," the group wrote when it recently released the results.
Floor action is expected as soon as Thursday. Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R) recently told reporters that he intends to vote for the bill.
A done deal? It's starting to look that way.
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