Medical Marijuana Legislation Proposed in North Carolina

On April 9, North Carolina House Bill 1380, titled the North Carolina Medical Marijuana Act Introduction, was drafted. It is sponsored by Representatives Earl Jones and Pricey Harrison of Guilford County, and Representative Nick Mackey of Mecklenburg County.

House Bill 1380 aims to exempt medical cannabis patients from arrest and prosecution if they are found using marijuana and it would also allow for the possession of cannabis for medical purposes provided that the amount in possession is not excessive.

WCU sophomore Whitney Bridges says, “My grandmother is suffering from cancer. My grandmother does not smoke marijuana, but if medical marijuana can help ease her pain or encourage her appetite in any way, then I would be in favor of House Bill 1380. House Bill 1380 would allow her access to it without the constant fear of criminal repercussions and penalties.”

The bill, co-sponsored by Representative Susan Fisher of Buncombe County, passed the first reading in the House on April 13, 2009 and has been referred to the Committee on Health. A long way from becoming a law, House Bill 1380 would make North Carolina the fourteenth state, following states such as New Mexico, Maine, Vermont and California, to allow marijuana for medical purposes.

Also introduced was House Bill 1383, sponsored by Representative Jones, calling for a vote from the citizens.

In response to the proposed legislation, the Marijuana Policy Project has given a grant to the North Carolina Cannabis Patients Network to allow them to lobby legislators in the General Assembly and build support for this medical marijuana legislation in the communities of North Carolina. The Marijuana Policy Project also provides a free legislative alert service subscription.

The goal of the North Carolina Cannabis Patients Network is to educate the citizens of North Carolina about medical marijuana on the need for legislation that regulates it.

On May 9, the NCCPN will be speaking at the North Carolina Cannabis Compassion Project at the Mecklenburg County Court House in Charlotte, NC from 1pm to 4:30pm. This event will also include a march on city hall.

Locally at WCU, student Ben Smith is working to establish a chapter of NORML. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws is an organization that seeks to promote cannabis education and fight for fair legislation. Other schools in North Carolina that already have university recognized chapters of NORML are UNC Chapel Hill, UNC Pembroke, and Appalachian State.

According to Smith, “The current laws regarding cannabis are not only outdated, but are also ineffective. They were written by white upper class racist bureaucrats. We are in a different time now. There have been millions of arrests since the 1960s for harmless crimes related to the possession of cannabis. I could go to jail today for something that I do not feel hurts anyone. Smoking and possessing cannabis are victimless crimes. Who am I hurting?”

The Journal of Clinical Pharmacology and The National Institute on Drug abuse recently published a review on marijuana. They found that no one has ever died of THC poisoning. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana that produces the high. They also found that contrary to popular assumption, heavy cannabis smokers experience withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety when they try to stop smoking.

The American Medical Association reported that smoking cannabis makes you hungry and that those receiving chemotherapy can benefit from cannabis provided that they are nonresponsive to other medications.

So what happens to WCU students if House Bill 1380 does eventually become a law in North Carolina?

“It is difficult to speculate how the University would respond” says Walter Turner, the Director of Student Community Ethics. “I encourage students to become active in the political process in a civil and intellectual way so that they can impact society and our campus, regardless of how they feel about the issue.”

Anyone interested in helping to establish a chapter of NORML at WCU is encouraged to join their Facebook group.