There are no fewer than eight cannabis-related bills working their way through the North Carolina legislature this session. This is nothing new — bills to legalize marijuana in some format have been written every session going back to at least 2009-10. What’s unique is that one of these bills, SB 711, the Compassionate Care Act, has this year actually advanced past its first committee stop and may even pass.

And like most attempts by the NC Legislature to keep up with progress — like the lottery, for instance — the bill is a ham-fisted half measure that doesn’t do what it needs to.

SB 711 is a medical-marijuana bill that, in its own words, “[I]s intended to make only those changes to existing North Carolina laws that are necessary to protect patients and their doctors from criminal and civil penalties and is not intended to change current civil and criminal laws governing the use of cannabis for nonmedical purposes.”

It’s worth mentioning here, to the officials in our representative government, that fully 54 percent of North Carolinians support legal, recreational cannabis, according to an Elon poll.

The only reason SB 711 has gotten past its first committee hurdle is that the bill is sponsored by Bill Rabon, a powerful Republican from a coastal district who has successfully used cannabis in his own battle with colon cancer.

Legal weed really should be a Republican issue. It implies states’ rights, small government, personal responsibility and fiscal reality, as recreational marijuana generates a significant tax-revenue windfall for the states that enact it.

But even this bill is loaded with big-government initiatives — an advisory board, a commission, a registry with cards, strict regulation of the supply line, a verification system and several other impositions on the free market.

And it never acknowledges the elephant in the room: As of this month, recreational cannabis is legal in Virginia, our neighbor to the north with which we share almost 400 miles of state borderline. Even if NC’s medical marijuana bill passes, which is still no guarantee, everyone who wants easy, legal weed will just drive across the border, like they used to do for lottery tickets, where their state tax coffers — and their big tobacco company — will benefit instead of ours.

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