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N.C. House to Reconsider Medical Marijuana

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
The N.C. House of Representatives will once again take up the issue of medical cannabis in the coming months, with seven representatives signing onto a bill described as "having some merit" by this district's representative.

North Carolina Cannabis Patients' Network President Perry Parks, of Rockingham, lauded the introduction of House Bill 577 last week, and pointed to efforts to make medicinal marijuana available in this state, the home of Fort Bragg and other large scale military installations, is a key effort to help veterans recovering from wounds they received, especially in combat.

"This is especially tragic in the state of North Carolina, with its large veteran population, to deny the treatment afforded to those in the 15 states that have passed legislation supporting medical cannabis," Parks said. "Consider the fact that the Veteran's Administration itself recognizes cannabis as an effective treatment for six different disorders, including the one I suffer from: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder."

N.C. Rep. Ken Goodman was not one of those to sign on to sponsor the bill, but said he has an open mind about the issue if and when it makes it to the floor of the House for a vote.

"There's a lot of evidence out there that marijuana could provide relief for people who are suffering from cancer and other chronic illnesses," Goodman said Monday morning. "There's definitely some merit to this bill, and it deserves to be looked at."

Goodman noted several other states have already passed measures allowing medical marijuana, and said the economic impact the bill could have on the state "is also a consideration."

Economists from the UNC system estimate the bill would generate about $250 million in the first year for the state. After that, the assumption is the revenue would increase annually as more producers and distributors enter the market.

Goodman also said North Carolina's system to deliver medical cannabis to patients would have to be more tightly regulated there would have to be better defined than say, the law in California, was.

"( Administering marijuana as a medication ) would have to be done under strict control for well-documented and specific situations by a credible physician, and the patient would need to remain under their care while taking it," Goodman said.

Federal Scheduling and Regulation

Obama Administration Attorney General Eric Holder made one of his first announcements after being appointed in 2009 a reversal of the president's stance on medical marijuana in states that allow it from the Bush Administration position, declaring federal law enforcement would honor a state's right to determine whether to allow medical marijuana.

While the federal government allows states to recognize the medicinal qualities of marijuana, however, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration continues to schedule marijuana as a substance with no medicinal value, despite ample evidence to the contrary being produced in the medical profession.

Last year, the U.S. Veterans Administration became the first to acknowledge the medicinal qualities of cannabis, which is thought of as such in most parts of the westernized world aside from America.

Veteran's Administration Directive

Marijuana has also shown promise in clinical trials testing its effectiveness as a treatment for both post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, afflictions common among enlisted men returning from war.

The evidence has mounted to the point that last year, then again this year, the federal Veteran's Administration issued directives allowing clients in states where medical marijuana has been approved to use it without endangering their pain management contracts with the VA health care system.

In states where medical marijuana has not been approved, a veteran who tests positive for it forfeits the privilege of receiving pain management medications from the VA.

Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access Executive Director Michael Krawitz pointed out North Carolina has an excellent opportunity to stand up for those who serve due to its large population of both active duty and former military personnel. He is from southwestern Virginia.

"Right now, the best way to protect veterans from criminal prosecution and ensure they have access to the proper treatment of their physical ailments is for the state to pass legislation that supports their right to use medicinal marijuana," Krawitz said this week.

Bipartisan Support

This is the second medical marijuana bill to reach Raleigh, following HB 1380, which stalled out in the House's Judicial Committee last year.

Unlike the last bill, Parks said those in the General Assembly who prepare bills to be introduced have worked with the groups pushing the bill to ensure it is synchronized with other general statute.

At last year's state Democratic Party County Executive Committee Convention in Fayetteville, the state's grassroots Democrat base called for legislation supporting medical marijuana, especially in the case of veterans, who are being deprived of a scientifically-promising treatment, in the wording of the resolution.

It also asked for the request "to remove all obstacles" to passing this legislation be delivered to each state legislator, member of the Council of State, the Governor, the Attorney General and other officials.

This version of the bill enjoys bipartisan support in the General Assembly, unlike its predecessor, after Republican N.C. Rep. Glen Bradley, of Youngsville, signed on as a co-sponsor Friday. He is joined by six Democrats, including primary sponsor N.C. Rep. Kelly Alexander, of Charlotte.

Assuming the bill reached the floor and enjoyed the support of four-fifths of the Democrats, it would take roughly 15 to 20 Republican votes to make it a go.

"The scientific evidence is mounting, and the walls are crumbling all around the prohibition movement," Parks said. "If North Carolina misses out on this golden opportunity to put its farmers back to work growing a plant that shrinks tumors instead of causing them - we will look back on this and say it is one of the saddest this state has seen since the introduction of commercial tobacco production."

NewsHawk: Jim Behr: 420 MAGAZINE
Source: Richmond County Daily Journal (NC)
Copyright: 2011 Richmond County Daily Journal
Contact: rbacon@heartlandpublications.com
Website: Richmond County Daily Journal
Details: MAP: Media Directory
Author: Philip D. Brown
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