In a groundbreaking move, Colorado and Washington voters on Tuesday passed referendums legalizing marijuana for recreational use. The drug is still banned under federal law.
Colorado’s Proposition 64 to the state’s constitution makes it legal for anyone older than 21 to possess marijuana and for businesses to sell it.
“The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will,” Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a statement. “This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug so don’t break out the Cheetos or gold fish too quickly.”
Amendment 64 legalized marijuana for anyone older than 21 at certain retail stores. Proponents believed the bill could generate millions in revenue for the state government.
A similar measure on the ballot in Washington State legalizes small amounts of marijuana for people older than 21.
Even though the issues have passed, they are likely to meet legal challenges very quickly.
In 2005, the Supreme Court struck down a California law that legalized medical marijuana in the state. The Court said Congress had the power to criminalize marijuana under the Commerce Clause.
A similar ballot issue to legalize marijuana in Oregon did not pass.
In Massachusetts, voters approved legislation to allow marijuana for medicinal reasons, joining 17 other states that allow it.
With Colorado and Washington making the move to legalize recreational marijuana use, North Carolina may be closer to recognizing medical marijuana as treatment for patients including veterans, according to North Carolina Cannabis Patients Network President Perry Parks of Rockingham.
“I have many people who — if they have a job or a position of respect — they are afraid to be seen talking to me, but in private they say, ‘I support what you’re doing,’” said Parks, who advocates the use of medical marijuana for veterans as an alternative to narcotics. “People still don’t understand the law’s impact on vets. They are going without medicine in some cases. People are scared to death of narcotics. So do they take narcotics and endanger their liver or break a law that is changing every day in this country?”
Parks believes North Carolina could soon adopt legislation similar to that which has been adopted in the 18 states that support medical marijuana use for certain patients.
According to the New Policy Directive for VA Hospitals and Clinics, “Medical conditions associated with the use of medical marijuana include, but are not limited to: glaucoma, chemotherapy induced nausea, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and chronic pain.” Perry said he advocates veterans being able to receive the medicine they need, no matter what state they are in.
“If a soldier is injured by an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) and suffers a traumatic brain injury, his treatment will be determined by the state in which he lives. In Rhode Island, he would be permitted to use Cannabis; in North Carolina, he is subject to arrest if he uses Cannabis,” said Parks. “If a doctor diagnoses a patient with breast cancer, is it morally right to not be able to prescribe a medicine that has been shown to reduce breast cancer tumors while at the same time protecting normal cells?”
Parks said there is a bill in the works.
“HB 577 is sitting, ready to drop in the hopper,” said Parks, about the Medical Cannabis Act that states, “This act provides broad civil and criminal immunity for a ‘qualified patient’ or a ‘designated caregiver’ for purchasing or possessing cannabis for medical use if the quantity does not exceed an ‘adequate supply’ for the patient as determined by his of her physician.”
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.