SB 711 – Medical Cannabis in NC

Last week the NC Senate Judiciary Approved SB 711, the NC Compassionate Care Act

That’s clearing a big hurdle. It’s a breakthrough in the cannabis industry for a bill to make it out of committee in the North Carolina General Assembly.

So for those who use cannabis now in North Carolina, there’s some good news and some bad news.

The good news is that cannabis attitudes are shifting with GOP members of the NC General Assembly. That’s a very conservative group, and they are in the majority, so it’s good to see some changes going on there. If nothing else, this bill is a conversation starter — and things will continue to shift as conversations unfold.

But this bill was introduced by a Republican and is getting bipartisan support, so it looks like it may pass.

If it does, the cannabis industry in North Carolina will operate in a whole new context. We’re likely to see more advocates and expertise in the medical community — and the views among legislators may further shift in the direction of fully legalized, regulated cannabis in North Carolina.

SB 711 creates a structure for medical cannabis farming, processing, product production, regulation, and distribution.

It benefits people here and other places by empowering the North Carolina university system to apply their resources and expertise to conducting cannabis research.

Because it requires all medical cannabis be grown and all products made in North Carolina, it will expand opportunity for some North Carolina farmers.

It still has a to make it through three more committees and then to the floor. It may get more scrutiny that result in a better bill or one that’s worse.

This is all good news because it opens a door that has a lot of potential.

The bad news is that it creates an extremely restrictive system.

Patients must obtain a “registry identification card,” and a physician must provide a recommendation. There’s certainly a place for that.

The written certification must cite a debilitating medical condition. The conditions listed include cancer, AIDS, Crohn’s disease, MS, and a few others. All of these are serious conditions, and it will be real progress when physicians can work with their patients and use medical marijuana to relieve suffering.

It’s extreme because that’s so limiting. This bill does nothing for those with less serious but still challenging situations such as arthritis, difficulty with sleep, mild anxiety, or even basic pain management.

There is some evidence, based on what’s happened in other other states, that opening up more access reduces the use of opioids, and even alchohol — substances that can be quite dangerous.

The limited number of licenses and cost also create high barriers for entry for suppliers.

Stores like ours are left out of this picture entirely.

If you would like to see full legalization of cannabis in North Carolina, including medical and recreational, then the passage of this bill may be a disappointment.

However, it’s a start. While some states recently have gone from zero to recreational in one shot, others have gone step by step, including California, the first state to legalize medical cannabis.

SB 711 won’t accomplish everything we want, but it will be a stigma-changer.


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