Medical marijuana advocates renew the push for legalization

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N.C. Rep. Kelly Alexander

Advocates of medical marijuana in the state will renew their push for legalization today — but critics of the proposal pledge to oppose it as a slippery slope toward full legalization.

N.C. Rep. Kelly Alexander, D-Mecklenburg, will file a bill today to legalize medical marijuana. Its passage is far from certain; similar legislation has stalled in the past.

But according to a poll conducted by Public Policy Polling, 58 percent of state residents support legalization.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA

Medical marijuana has been endorsed by a variety of medical groups and can be used to treat various conditions:

  • The AIDS Action Council, American Academy of Family Physicians and the N.C. Nurses Association have endorsed the use of marijuana for medical purposes.
  • The use of medical marijuana is currently legal in 18 states.
  • Medical marijuana can be used to treat several conditions including Alzheimer’s disease, HIV and Multiple Sclerosis.
  • For more information, go to http://norml.org/marijuana/medical

Medical marijuana is used to treat nerve damage, glaucoma, nausea and HIV/AIDS, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, a group that advocates for legalization.

If the bill passed, North Carolina would become the 19th state to legalize medical marijuana.

Perry Parks, president of the North Carolina Cannabis Patients’ Network and a retired military pilot, discovered the utility of cannabis while being treated at a Duke University pain clinic.

He said this bill only aims to legalize marijuana for medical purposes.

“We’re trying to really push to educate,” Parks said. “When you see the amount of medical evidence, you’ll see why cannabis has been used as a medicine for centuries.”

Parks said the bill is similar to N.C. House Bill 577, a 2011 bill that attempted to legalize medical marijuana but remained mired in the N.C. House Rules Committee.

This year’s bill is an improved version that addresses shortcomings of the previous proposal, such as protecting doctors who provide medical marijuana from liability, Parks said.

But Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the N.C. Values Coalition, said legalization of medical marijuana is risky.

“It’s a slippery slope,” she said. “It can open the door to recreational use — it’s not good for our families and communities.”

She said California, which legalized medical marijuana in 1996, has experienced an increase in recreational use.

The coalition will advocate against the bill, she said.

“We’ll fight it and we’ll educate our constituents about why it’s not good for North Carolina.”

UNC senior Allie Barnes, a journalism major, said the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes deserves a fresh look.

“It represents a growing trend,” Barnes said. “If the effects of marijuana are calming enough and can help people in chronic pain, I think it’s definitely worth looking into.”

Contact the desk editor at state@dailytarheel.com.

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