Friday, April 19, 2024

State Senators Michael Lee and Bill Rabon file weed bill alongside two Democrats

Cannabis has been at the center of North Carolina Senate bills this week. Wednesday, Michael Lee and Bill Rabon joined together with two Democrats on a bill that establishes a government bureaucracy for medicinal prescriptions. (Port City Daily/Mark Darrough)

A North Carolina Senate bill filed by two Cape Fear Republicans alongside two Democrats would install protections for physicians seeking to prescribe cannabis to patients with debilitating medical conditions.

The N.C. Compassionate Care Act — cosponsored primarily by senators Bill Rabon (R-8), Michael Lee (R-9) and Paul Lowe (D-32), also with Kirk deViere (D-19) — doesn’t seek to change the legal status of non-medical cannabis use, but instead would let select providers prescribe North Carolina-grown cannabis to qualified patients for conditions like cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma and others. 

If passed, the legislation would start the process of welcoming cannabis production and distribution into the wheelhouse of N.C. government bureaucracies. The Medical Cannabis Production Commission, the authority proposed in the draft language, would include five governor-appointed members and four members appointed by the N.C. General Assembly. The group would handle applications for prospective suppliers.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services would oversee licenses for individuals seeking to prove they have a debilitating condition worthy of a cannabis prescription — and regulate the “designated caregiver” approvals. The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services would implement a system for homegrown production and distribution.

“A licensed medical cannabis supplier is required to grow medical cannabis in a controlled, covered environment,” according to the bill. “Sites where medical cannabis is grown shall not be open to the public.”

The regulation system is designed “to ensure the highest quality medical cannabis and cannabis-infused products for patients.” 

Patients under 18 would be limited to smoke-free methods of consumption, like gummies and other edibles. 

Fees for suppliers would include a one-time $50,000 payment and renewal fees at least once a year — slated to cost $10,000 per renewal. Application fees for patients would not exceed $50, under the bill’s proposed terms.

The proposed legislation comes at a time when N.C. Democrats have ramped up a push for legal weed. Bills in support of legalizing cannabis for both recreational and medicinal purposes have been filed in the state senate this week

Senate Bill 646, filed earlier Wednesday by three Democrats, including the party whip from Wake County, “would allow adults to possess up to two ounces of marijuana and 15 grams of concentrates, and to grow up to six marijuana plants for personal use,” according to NORML.

According to the News & Observer, legalizing weed for both purposes polls strongly in North Carolina, though a task force spearheaded by Gov. Roy Cooper vouched for decriminalization over legalization.

Another group of three Democrats backed a different medicinal cannabis-related bill Wednesday also.

S.B. 711, the next in line of bills this week looking for a different path forward in cannabis policy, is a proposed amendment to Chapter 90, an extensive scroll of law related to “Medicine and Allied Occupations.”

Requests for comment have been sent to the offices of the Senators behind the bill.

SB 711 would also open the opportunity for a research initiative through the University of North Carolina System. Projects may include “analysis of genetic and healing properties of the many varied strains of cannabis to determine which strains may be best suited for a particular condition or treatment.”

Read Senate Bill 711: here

List of ‘debilitating medical conditions in SB711, cosponsored by Senators Lee, Rabon, Lowe and deViere.

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