The North Carolina Medical Cannabis Act was ruled “unfavorable” by the Committee on Rules, Calendar and Operations of the State House on Wednesday, according to the North Carolina General Assembly.
The Act, HB 84, was filed with the North Carolina House on Feb. 7, and passed its first reading on Feb. 11, after which it was referred to the Committee on Rules, Calendar and Operations of the House.
Wednesday the bill was up for debate, and according to Perry Parks of Rockingham — Vietnam veteran and president of the North Carolina Cannabis Patients Network, who was in attendance for the bill he supported — the room was packed.
The fact that the bill was referred to this committee concerned him, because last year the bill was “killed in this committee” as well, said Parks. He had hoped the bill would make it to the House floor for a debate, which he said many lawmakers supported for its medical integrity and safeguards against making cannabis available for recreational use.
Richmond County’s Democratic House Representative Ken Goodman said, before the bill went to the committee, that he supports a healthy debate on the content of the bill, which he said “has merit.”
“This bill was introduced to the House two years ago and killed in committee, but since then there has been a good bit of new information on medical cannabis,” said Goodman two weeks ago when the bill was filed with the House. “It’s worth taking a serious look at since the evidence proves that it has benefits. Nineteen other states have already made the medical use legal. We ought to take a look at it. I think we need an opportunity to debate it. The problem with the bill is really just political fear and this bill does not make recreational use legal. There are very strong safeguards in the bill that prevent it from being used recreationally.”
The bill is dead despite this sentiment, and despite testimonies from nurses, doctors and one cancer survivor, who Parks said were all in favor of making medical cannabis available to patients who suffer from chronic illnesses.
Parks said the vote for deeming the bill unfavorable came after a preacher spoke on the issue. According to Parks, the preacher cited research from 1999, which has since been disproved by the National Cancer Institute. Parks said someone from the crowd called out, “that’s not true anymore” as the preacher spoke about cannabis killing brain cells, and the room was called to order.
“The vote was close, and they broke up the meeting right after it,” said Parks. “After the meeting the preachers were given a hard time by some of the people there. They just don’t understand the frustration some of these people have. One nurse broke down in tears. It was a sham. A doctor and two or three nurses said they would support me, and we will see what we can do, but it’s looking slim.”
Rep. Kelly Alexander of District 107, who drafted and supported the bill, said although the bill won’t be moving forward, Wednesday’s meeting was a sign of progress.
“The whole process of moving North Carolina toward the passage of the bill was advanced today,” said Alexander on Wednesday, in an exclusive interview with the Daily Journal. “We did get a hearing and we had an opportunity to speak to the committee. That was much better than last session, when the bill was just sidetracked and then killed without discussion.”
Alexander said he knew from discussion taking place around the legislature that the Feb. 12 rally in Raleigh by the North Carolina Cannabis Patients Network and others who supported the bill “made favorable impressions” and has “people thinking about the issue in ways not thought about before.”
According to Alexander, the bill, having been deemed unfavorable, enters the unfavorable calendar, and it takes two out of three votes to remove it.
“It is unlikely the bill will be debated again this session, but it doesn’t mean the issue goes away,” said Alexander. “There are still 58 percent of people in North Carolina that are in favor of regulating medical cannabis.”
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.