North Carolina is on its way to legalizing medical cannabis. Senate Bill 711: The North Carolina Compassionate Care Act passed the Senate this week, setting it up for the House to weigh in on the future of medicinal marijuana in the state. The bill has been championed by Senate Rules Chairman Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick), an influential member of the chamber. SB 711 passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee, Finance Committee, and Health Care Committee last year before being brought before the Rules Committee and the full Senate this week. During its journey, many amendments were adopted, including one this week which will double the amount of vendor locations for each of the eventual manufacturer licensees from four to eight.
The measure would create a Medical Advisory Board that oversees medical marijuana potency and access in the state and increase the availability of supply resources and information. The Medical Advisory Board would also have the authority to choose to add new conditions to the list of fifteen already included that will qualify for medical marijuana prescriptions. Currently, the 15 debilitating medical conditions that are listed to qualify for medicinal cannabis include cancer, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s and AIDS. The Board will include qualified appointed personnel, consisting of licensed doctors, pharmacists, and patients who understand the needs of those in situations requiring medical marijuana.
Along with the Advisory Board, a Medical Cannabis Production Commission would also be created to regulate and monitor growth, production, and distribution of medical marijuana products in the state. The Commission would issue licenses to growers and distributors to ensure that medical marijuana is properly handled from manufacturer to patient.
The bill also specifies how physicians and patients would interact when prescribing medical marijuana. To write a prescription, physicians will need to attend a ten-hour continuing education course to be advised on the best ways to prescribe and recognize the need for medical marijuana. Patients requesting medical marijuana will apply to their local health department and be issued an identification card that allows receipt of medical marijuana if the requisite conditions are met under the statute.
SB 711 also provides for law enforcement oversight. Cardholders possessing medical marijuana would be required to produce their medical marijuana permits along with valid identification when stopped by law enforcement. Further, the bill establishes a confidential database that would allow law enforcement to ensure the cardholder is in possession of a valid medical marijuana license.
The Senate passed the bill Thursday by a bipartisan 35-10 vote, with both Democrats and Republicans voting for and against it. The Senate will hold a final vote on the bill next week before it heads to the House of Representatives which has not yet indicated their willingness to adopt the measure.