Medical Marijuana will remain illegal in North Carolina as the state House of Assembly failed to pass a Senate-backed bill that sought to change this. SB 711 was proposed to allow the use of medical cannabis to individuals with medical conditions that required it. Dubbed the Compassion Care Act, the bill advanced through multiple Senate committees before presentation at the House.
The act proposed to provide qualifying patients with debilitating medical conditions. Under the bill, such conditions include HIV, AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn's disease, sickle cell, Parkinson's disease, and evident PTSD. The proposed act also applied to terminally ill persons with less than half a year to live. Eligible patients will obtain an identification card from the NC Department of Health and Human Services. For patients under 18, medical marijuana is only available with their parent’s approval, and the parent must manage the dosage of the minor patient.
Furthermore, the bill mentions a maximum of ten suppliers of medical marijuana in the state that will cultivate and provide cannabis to qualifying patients. Each supplier can have up to four dispensaries in operation. There will also be the formation of new agencies, including a Compassionate Use Advisory Board that can authorize patients suffering from other health conditions to access medical marijuana. Likewise, the bill will create a Medical Cannabis Production Commission responsible for licensing suppliers, revenue generation, and ensuring an adequate supply of medical cannabis.
Physicians will be responsible for providing the method of delivery to patients and the dosages needed. Moreover, they must continuously reassess a patient's eligibility for the medical marijuana program annually.
Advocates had expressed concerns that the scope of the act may exclude persons with other ailments that may require medical marijuana. They were hopeful to see amendments to the bill that expanded the proposed program and included more people.
Initially introduced in 2021, the defeat of the bill means that North Carolina will not implement any progressive marijuana laws this year. Advocates have expressed their disappointment in the legislators for their decision to block the bill. It is understood that House Republicans strongly opposed the bill and were responsible for its failure to advance to the Governor.
This is not the first time the NC House will oppose a medical cannabis bill. In 2014, an appointed committee of the House also killed a medical marijuana bill. The House Judiciary I Committee also provided an unfavorable report that stopped the House from passing bills concerning medical marijuana subsequently for two years.
Although advocates are frustrated about the failure of the bill, they hope the state can revisit the issue next year and eventually create a medical marijuana program.