North Carolina’s medical marijuana bill is one of the worst in the nation — or, it would be if it could pass the NC House. But that’s where it’s stalled, according to recent reporting by the News & Observer.
After a year on the bench, SB3 sailed through the NC Senate in March after sponsor Sen. Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick/Columbus/New Hanover) testified on the floor that medical marijuana likely saved his life during a bout with colon cancer 10 years ago. It benefited, too, from support by heavyweight Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger, who calls a lot of the tunes when the NC legislature is in session.
This is not a recreational marijuana bill, and seems designed to obfuscate any bit of the pleasure some folks derive from cannabis. A prospective user needs to be pretty sick — cancer, HIV/AIDS, ALS, Crohn’s and MS are among the “debilitating medical conditions” listed in the bill, as well as any terminal illness and PTSD. But it’s what politicos call a “crack in the windshield” because it sets up systems for suppliers and distributors, which is the first step towards realizing the serious tax revenue recreational marijuana might bring. In 2022, only two states that collect cannabis taxes claimed less than $100 million in revenue. California took in almost $775 million; Illinois netted almost $467 million. Plus it clears all the weed cases out of the courts and jails, and gives cops something better to do.
Berger might be in it for the money, which would explain the political maneuver Senate Republicans pulled on their House colleagues. As explained in the N&O, in June Rabon leveraged his position as chair of the Rules Committee to insert language into a random House bill about physician’s assistants that would make it valid only when his own SB3 “becomes law.” The Senate then approved the amendment 36-8.
But House GOP should be feeling cornered. Recreational marijuana is popular with voters in NC — 57 percent approve, according to a Survey USA poll. And 72 percent believe in medical marijuana. Plus, people like the bill. Its restrictions notwithstanding, SB3 does some of the heavy lifting of creating an industry in the state, with a little something for in-state farmers who can come up with $50,000 to get the initial licensing for suppliers. It even has rules for advertising the facilities, which “shall be tasteful, respectful, and medically focused and shall not appeal to minors or contain cartoon-like figures or attempts at humor.”
Despite its popularity, no one is lining up to make medical marijuana an election issue next year. But for now, Rabon seems willing to die on this hill and he’s got most of the rest of the Senate behind him. That, and maybe a couple of sweeteners in the form of political favors, might be enough to sway the House GOP.
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