On March 1 at 4:20 p.m., a time whose significance is not lost on marijuana users, the North Carolina Senate passed a bill legalizing the use of the substance for medical needs.
Senate Bill 3, titled the "N.C. Compassionate Care Act," legalizes medical marijuana for patients with cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder, HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses.
The bill must be heard and passed by the state House before it will be signed into law or vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper. On Monday, it passed its first reading in the House.
Although S.B. 3 passed 36 to 10 with bipartisan support in the state Senate, its future is somewhat more uncertain in the state House. Last year, Senate Bill 711, also titled the "N.C. Compassionate Care Act," passed in the N.C. Senate but died in the House.
According to this year's bill, those with qualifying conditions or a designated caregiver will be able to purchase cannabis from licensed dispensaries with the use of an identification card.
Physicians will be required to complete a 10-hour educational course and complete further supplemental training during any year when they issue a written certification, according to the bill. They will also be required to frequently reevaluate patients to determine the efficacy of the use of cannabis as treatment.
The N.C. General Assembly's legislative fiscal note for the bill says the legislation would increase revenue for the state. Over time, it is anticipated that patient and caregiver registry card application fees and gross receipt fees will generate most of the revenue.
N.C. Sen. Graig Meyer (D-Caswell, Orange, Person) said legalizing, taxing, regulating and decriminalizing marijuana has been one of his most prevalent issues. He said he hopes to see it pass this year and later move into recreational use in the near future.
“I'm very optimistic about the conversations that are being had in Raleigh right now and about people's interest in this across the state,” Meyer said. “And I do think that we will likely see legislation moving ahead over the course of this year.”