A bill to legalize medical marijuana, introduced by Representative Kelly Alexander, was considered by the House Judiciary I Committee today. Despite heart-wrenching testimony from veterans and others with serious medical conditions, the committee took less than thirty seconds to vote to give the bill an unfavorable report.
If passed, the bill would have allowed North Carolinians to obtain prescriptions and legally buy cannabis from licensed distributors. The distributors in turn would have purchased the plant from licensed growers, who would have been regulated by the Department of Agriculture. The bill would have taxed each sale of marijuana at 5% and created a revenue for the state.
During the committee meeting, members of the community spoke about the medical benefits of using marijuana for conditions such as cancer, epilepsy and brain injuries and about how this one medicine allowed them to stop taking addictive pain medication or dozens of prescription drugs. The majority of the speakers in favor of the bill stated that they were law-abiding Republicans and Christians and had opposed or been resistant to the use of marijuana until they personally discovered the health benefits. They also now felt that since this was a “plant given to us by God,” using it couldn’t be immoral.
The few who spoke against the bill claimed that the scientific community hadn’t found real benefits in the medical use of marijuana and that legalizing this use was a slippery slope that would lead drug abuse problems.
One of the speakers read statistics that showed that while alcohol, which is legal, kills 32,000 people a year, to date marijuana has not killed even one person.
Representative Alexander also reminded the committee to distinguish the stereotypical images of potheads like “Cheech and Chong” or “Harold and Kumar” from the sick people who aren’t using marijuana just for fun and who are generally taking doses of marijuana oil.
If everyone in the room had been allowed a vote, the bill surely would have passed the committee. However, the meeting ended abruptly with Representative Alexander wanting to pull the bill before the vote and the committee going forward with an unfavorable vote.
North Carolina could have joined the 22 and growing number of states that have legalized medical marijuana but it looks like we’re going to stay stuck in the past for now.