Medical cannabis is advancing through the General Assembly

“I have mixed feelings,” said Senator Kevin Corbin, R-Franklin. “I have no problem with medical marijuana. I think there is probably a place for it, but I have concerns about enforcement and smoking. “

That Loving Care Act of 2021 was filed in the NC Senate last April by a bipartisan trio of lawmakers, Bill Rabon, R-Bladen, Michael Lee, R-New Hanover, and Paul A. Lowe, Jr., D-Forsyth.

Since then, it has passed through a milieu of committees including Rules, Justice, Finance, and Health. It was referred back to the Judiciary Committee on August 4th and will also revisit Healthcare and Rules if these committees find it cheap.

Statutory findings in the law state that “… Research has shown that cannabis and cannabinoid compounds are effective at relieving pain, nausea, and other symptoms associated with several debilitating diseases,” and that as of May 36 states and the District of Columbia had lifted criminal sanctions related to the medical cannabis industry.

The law also makes it clear that it is only intended to establish a medical cannabis system and “…

If enacted, the Compassionate Care Act would use a model existing in other states that depends on possession of a registry card.

To qualify for a registry ID, patients would provide the NC Department of Health and Human Services with written certification from a doctor stating that the benefits of medicinal cannabis use for that patient outweigh the risks.

Only patients with HIV or AIDS, ALS, Crohn’s or Parkinson’s disease, sickle cell anemia, PTSD, MS, wasting syndrome, or severe nausea related to hospice care would be eligible, although a 13-member Medical Cannabis Advisory Board could add other qualifying conditions in a timely manner.

Children under the age of 18 would only qualify for medicinal cannabis with parental consent and would not be able to use inhalation as a method of delivery, opening the door to oils, infusions, or extracts.

Under such a regulatory structure, doctors would be free to prescribe 30-day care to patients, their caregivers, or, if they are under 18, their parents.

As suggested, the Compassionate Care Act would also set up a nine-member Medical Cannabis Production Commission tasked with licensing medical cannabis manufacturers and regulating manufacturing facilities. The commission would also have a responsibility to ensure that manufacturing facilities are fairly distributed across the state while preventing oversaturation.

Individuals wishing to become medical cannabis producers pay a non-refundable application fee of US $ 50,000 and then US $ 5,000 for each supplier, but must also demonstrate five years of experience in the medical cannabis business or adult use of cannabis. Applicants must have been in the state for at least two years at the time of application, but can work with non-residents who have industry experience.

Initially, 10 supplier licenses would be issued, which would allow licensees to operate up to eight retail pharmacies, two of which must be in Tier 1 (economically troubled) countries. In western North Carolina, these are Mitchell, Rutherford, Swain, Graham, and Cherokee Counties.

Licensees must start growing medicinal cannabis within 120 days of licensing and start selling medicinal cannabis within 180 days.

Each year, the NCDHHS would have to report to several joint legislative committees on the number of registration card applications and the number of qualified patients cared for by each pharmacy, as well as the number of suppliers, manufacturing facilities and pharmacies in each county.

The bill would also establish the Cannabis Research Program in North Carolina, which would conduct further research into the effectiveness of medicinal cannabis in treating conditions for which it could be prescribed.

Medical cannabis products would be exempt from sales and use tax, but suppliers would pay NCDHHS 10 percent of the gross revenue from the sale of medical cannabis each month.

These proceeds would be used to support the medical cannabis regulatory system and research program. Any excess revenue would flow into the state’s general fund.

A July 19 statement by the state’s Fiscal Research Department does not include a revenue estimate for the law, but does provide statistics from the state Marijuana Policy Project show that in states with existing medical cannabis industries, approximately 2.28 percent of the 239 million or more people eligible for medicinal cannabis use make use of it.

Corbin’s enforcement concerns revolve around people with seemingly minor health problems like back pain who are able to improperly acquire registry badges, but he also has a problem with the provisions of the law that allow the prescription of smokable cannabis flowers.

“I have to look at the bill when it comes down to it, but if it’s smokable I’m probably a no,” he said. If a bill that only allows oral cannabis use for medical reasons moves forward, it said it would likely vote yes.

Republican Rep. Mark Pless, who represents parts of Haywood and all of Madison and Yancey counties, said that if the Compassionate Care Act gets into the House of Representatives, he will be totally against it.

“I don’t see any need for it,” said Pless. “I understand they are trying to open up options, but there are 36 states that have already done so. If people need that, they can just live in one of these states. “

Mike Clampitt, a Republican official who represents the rest of Haywood Counties in addition to Jackson and Swain Counties, has long been known as a medical cannabis advocate.

“I’ve discussed the Compassionate Care Act a lot,” said Clampitt. “I support it. I’m going back to campaigning – someone pointed this out to me and I made sure I was clear. I have made no secret of it in the past. “

Clampitt added that under no circumstances would he endorse recreational cannabis in North Carolina.