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Cannabis billing: two broken commissions, two more

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A Wilmington-based company hopes to bring a high standard of professional standards and practices to the state hemp industry - and, ultimately, the legalized marijuana industry.  (Port City Daily Photo / Courtesy CIJ Holdings, Inc.)
The medical cannabis bill backed by Cape Fear Republicans Michael Lee and Bill Rabon won a landslide vote in the second of four committee sessions Wednesday. (Port City Daily / Courtesy of CIJ Holdings)

Legislation proposed to legalize medical cannabis in North Carolina moved successfully through its second committee vote in the NC Senate on Wednesday. The bill must clear two additional Senate committees before it can pass a vote in the chamber.

The NC Compassionate Care Act has marched ahead of this legislative session, spurred on by bilateral support including the support of Chairman of the Rules and Operations Committee, Senator Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick. It’s an unprecedented push for cannabis reform, albeit with strict limits, in a state where marijuana bills of all kinds are regularly rejected.

Senators Michael Lee, R-New Hanover and Paul Lowe, D-Forsyth, assemble the team of major bill sponsors. Other sponsors include Senate Majority Leader Kathy Harrington, R-Gaston and three Democrats from across the state.

bill received a favorable vote Wednesday in the Senate Finance Committee, with one change that the cannabis infrastructure created by the bill be “self-sustaining.” Next is a hearing in Health Care, then the Rabons Rules and Operations, then a vote in the Senate before we move into the House.

BEFORE: Republicans from Cape Fear weed bills mark first major Senate victory

In two committee hearings held so far on the bill, Lee and Rabon have guaranteed the medical potential of cannabis to improve the quality of life for patients with poor medical condition. If signed into law as it is, the law will allow doctors to prescribe cannabis for patients diagnosed with conditions such as cancer, epilepsy and HIV / AIDS. (Read the full list of debilitating medical conditions at the end of this article.)

Further, a number of military veterans have backed the law for hesitant lawmakers, citing the devastating effects of the pharmaceutical war cocktail prescribed for some after returning from war zones.

Our position on him has always been that they have been aware of the suicide veterans issue, said Rob Rens, a U.S. Navy veteran and New Hanover County resident.

We know what it is, and we know that opiates, tops and bottoms what we call war cocktails are not giving the right effect properly and we need to look for some alternatives.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is ranked among the debilitating medical conditions that can guarantee a cannabis prescription, depending on evidence that an applicant has experienced one or more traumatic events. But: Trauma details will not be required.

READ MORE: The rabbid Lees medical cannabis bill wins bilateral praise, gets committee attention

Rens said he attended about 20 meetings in Raleigh on Wednesday. His central audience has been Republicans, many of whom are wary that passing the Compassionate Care Act would invite a slippery slope, leading to a final legalization of recreational cannabis. Rabon and Lee have been adamant that the bill is only about medical termination.

I see this as a narrow bill that makes modest recognition that it has therapeutic value for the substance under certain conditions, said UNC Assistant Professor Phil Dixon.

Dixon specializes in cannabis through the lens of criminal law. North Carolina has a complex piece of legal land in the area, he said, as penalties for possession of marijuana vary depending on location.

There are some counties that are no longer pursuing low-level marijuana possession prosecutions, Dixon said. In other countries they still pursue them aggressively. This is a hot mess, and in the long run, this is an issue that needs to be addressed.

Rabon and Lee have drafted their bill at committee hearings as the best-preserved legislation of its kind more controlled than the bills seen in the 36 states that have already passed cannabis medical legislation. Cannabis entrepreneurs will be required to oversee a “sell” business model, bearing responsibility for owning production equipment and dispensaries.

The bill will allow 10 cannabis suppliers to receive licenses. Each of those entities will be allowed a maximum of four ambulances, limiting the number of medical cannabis ambulances to 40 across the country. Suppliers will pay a $ 50,000 license fee to the NC Department of Health and Human Services, and an annual renewal fee of $ 10,000. NCDHHS also receives a 10% discount on all gross income.

Now, after the successful hearing in Finance, the sponsors and proponents of the bills look forward to the next Health Care session.

I believe some of the 20 weird meetings we have planned for her [Wednesday] will include senators who are on the Health Care committee, and so this is a large part of the place where we would focus our time and energy, to discuss any concerns the committee members have there, said Rens, a USMC veteran.

The benefits of cannabis have long been talked about in veteran circles, said Rens, who sees the bill as a way for North Carolina to make itself the most hospitable state for veterans.

In military circles, we’ve been talking about it for years. I know people who have used it for years, years and years, so that way they would not have to go with opiates, tops and bottoms and all these other things that VA describes to you because those things just don’t work, he said.

Secret is a well kept secret in our community but I think cats are not in the bag right now.

This is the list of conditions that would allow someone to provide a medical prescription for cannabis in accordance with the Compassionate Care Act. The Medical Cannabis Advisory Board would have the power to add new conditions to the list by a majority of votes. (Port City Daily / Courtesy NCGA)

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