RALEIGH, N.C. — With more states legalizing marijuana, advocates are renewing the push to allow medical marijuana in North Carolina.
Sixteen states have approved recreational use of marijuana – New York became the latest on Wednesday – and more than double that number allow doctors to prescribe it for medicinal uses.
A handful of advocates went door to door in the General Assembly on Thursday, talking with lawmakers about passing medical marijuana legislation in North Carolina. Some said they have medical conditions they feel could be improved through cannabis use.
Janis Ramquist, a former lobbyist, said she has seven bulging disks in her back, and medical marijuana would help relieve the pain without the side-effects she gets from her current medications.
“We are just normal people who have medical conditions that are not responding to the medicine we are taking,” Ramquist said.
In addition to the medical benefits, the members of the state chapter of the National Organization for Reform Of Marijuana Laws say legal weed could generate tax revenue for the state and become a cash crop for farmers.
“This has been a drug and a cause that has been looked at in the wrong light for a long time,” NORML member Chris Suttle said. “It is time we get what everybody else is getting.”
A criminal justice reform task force headed by Attorney General Josh Stein recommended last year that North Carolina decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana and study the prospect of further legalizing cultivation, sale and possession in the state.
Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said there appears to be more support among lawmakers for some decriminalization, but not so much on legalization, even for medicinal use.
“We’ll have to see. I do think public sentiment on that has been changing over the past few years,” said Berger, R-Rockingham.
That change makes Ramquist optimistic, even though medical marijuana bills have never gotten a hearing in the General Assembly in previous years. No such bill has been introduced yet this session.
“We have gotten a better reception than I anticipated and more enthusiasm than I thought I would see,” Ramquist said. “It gives me hope.”