We are so excited to share we have not one, but two medical cannabis bills on the table in North Carolina! I am sure you have seen us posting about the North Carolina Cannabis Lobby, and may be interested in how you can get involved or what we are even lobbying for.
The North Carolina Cannabis Lobby is a group of farmers, business owners, and NC citizens championing for a comprehensive cannabis program in 2020. We are focused on The North Carolina Medical Cannabis Act HB 401 & HB 1143.
The aggressive enforcement of cannabis possession laws needlessly arrest hundreds of thousands of people into the criminal justice system and wastes billions of taxpayers’ dollars. Nationwide, especially in North Carolina, it is carried out with staggering racial bias. It is time to take a much more serious look at our criminal justice system. Despite being a priority for police departments nationwide, the war on cannabis has failed to reduce cannabis use and availability and diverted resources that could be better invested in our communities.
According to a new report by the American Civil Liberties Union, North Carolina spent nearly $55 million enforcing cannabis possession laws in 2010, while statewide African Americans were arrested for cannabis possession at 3.4 times the rate of whites, despite comparable cannabis usage rates.
Despite all the progress that medical cannabis has made in the US, 17 states remain without access to it, and North Carolina is one of them. However, that could change with these new, pending bills. House bill 401 and House bill 1143 are the exact same bill, and we are taking them as two opportunities to get this through in Raleigh. Simply Extract is 100% in favor of not just a medical program, but full legalization of this medicinal plant.
Unfortunately after our recent battle to keep hemp flower legal, we know the current state of things with our legislature, so we are gearing our efforts towards a medical bill here in the Old North State.
North Carolina is a non initiative state, meaning voters aren’t allowed to place measures on the ballot, but since the numbers show that 80 percent of voters in the state support medical cannabis, there is pressure for something to be done.
Last year, a group of cosponsors introduced HB 401, a comprehensive medical cannabis bill, into the legislature. Nothing happened last year, but it carried over to 2020. Since lawmakers reconvened on April 28, they will now be considering this measure again. HB 1143 was introduced last may and is the same bill.
What’s in them?
The bill would require: NC Department of Health and Human Services to issue a registry identification card to any qualified patient or designated caregiver.
The card would cost $10.
The bill creates a regulated medical cannabis supply system
The bill would license the following entities under the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services:
- Medical Cannabis Center
- Producer of Medical Cannabis
- Producer of Cannabis Infused Products
All sales would be from a licensed Medical Cannabis Center.
These licensed entities would be required to pay monthly fees to the Department of Agriculture to operate regulations, registry, and the research programs.
Defenses for Qualified Patients and Caregivers
The bill allows individuals who do not have a registry identification cardholder to have affirmative defense under this section.
The bill states that a physician shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or any penalty for recommending the medical use of cannabis or providing written certification for the medical use of cannabis.
NC Cannabis Research Program
The bill states that the UNC System would be responsible for undertaking presenting scientific research regarding the efficacy and safety of administering medical cannabis as a part of medical treatment.
The bill applies a 5% tax to be collected by a retailer for cannabis sales.
What do we like about the bill?
- The supply amount is 24 ounces or a 3 month supply allowed for patients.
- It protects parents from having their children taken away.
- It protects renters and job seekers from getting discriminated against because of their medical card.
- For first-year licensees, a nonrefundable license fee in the amount of five thousand dollars ($5,000).
If we are going to pass this bill and feel confident it is a fair program for all citizens, there are quite a few amendments that will need to be added. In our opinion those changes are as followed:
Social Equity Programs
It’s no secret that the prior prohibition of cannabis disproportionately and adversely impacted people in communities of color. In an attempt to counter this history of disparity, many states and cities have implemented social equity programs in connection to the legalization of medical or adult cannabis use.
This gives opportunities to individuals and communities who were previously harmed from inequitable cannabis arrests and convictions, a chance to jump into this new market.
Ideas: Current Brainstorm from the NC Cannabis Lobby
Reduced fees for Social Equity applicants: and a % of the tax to go toward economic and education programs in communities where drug laws were disproportionately enforced. This tax will go towards releasing non violent cannabis users, substance abuse prevention and addiction programs, funding public school education, health funds to lower the cost of medical cannabis for low income patients, and affordable housing.
Adding a Decrim and Expungement Amendment: This would erase non violent Cannabis users’ criminal record, and release any prisoner currently in North Carolina prisons, if possession was below 1.5 ounces or they can prove the need for medical cannabis prior to the program being in place. It would no longer allow arrest or fines for any citizens with 1.5 ounces or under. We are still working on the best way to make these demands in a medical bill as not many cities or states have done this successfully.
Paraphernalia Amendment: CannabisParaphernalia or any device used to consume cannabis will no longer be illegal to carry on person, in a vehicle, or at citizens place of residence.
Farmer Protections: Any Producer of Medical Cannabis to a Medical Cannabis Center should be a resident of the state of North Carolina for 3 years or more. No farm can exceed 50 acres, keeping large commercial farms out of the state.
Testing: There is nothing in this bill about testing guidelines which can be harmful for the patient. All flower/extract/edibles should be tested by a third party to lab to ensure the safety of the consumer. Testing for mold, toxins, and potency should be a requirement to sell any product at a Medical Cannabis Center.
Home Cultivation: We feel like all patients should have the opportunity to grow their own medicine to reduce cost and travel. Patients unable to grow for themselves should have the opportunity to have a caregiver grow for them. Patients would still have to obtain a home grow license for a small fee and register with the state. Patients would be allowed to cultivate no more than six flowering cannabis plants or supply for 3 months.
No one should be disqualified from becoming a grower or a medical center based on prior criminal convictions.
We understand the likelihood of a perfect bill is not as high as we’d like in North Carolina. There is a lot of compromise and strategy in these amendments to make this bill fair but still passable. As a company we feel like this plant should be as free as a tomato. Every step matters as we push to get this plant freed. Have thoughts, opinions, frustrations on this legislation? Join the North Carolina Cannabis Lobby and help us get this done the right way!