North Carolina residents won’t have access to medical marijuana anytime soon.
A panel of the state’s House of Representatives rejected a bill in late March that would have legalized full MMJ. The state already allows a non-intoxicating form of the drug for children with severe epilepsy.
The House Judiciary I Committee voted unanimously to kill the bill after an emotionally charged hearing at the state capitol March 25. It marked the second time in three years that lawmakers have stopped MMJ legislation at the committee level.
A bill introduced in 2013 died at a hearing of the House Rules Committee after just four patients were allowed to testify. Roughly a dozen spoke at the Judiciary hearing, but their passionate arguments went unheeded.
Pro-pot advocate assaulted a committee member
The decision was so heated that one pro-pot advocate allegedly assaulted a member of the committee. State Rep. Dean Arp, a Republican, said an audience member hit him in the back after the hearing. Arp declined to press charges after the man wrote an apology letter.
“We can’t hit folks during civil discourse,” Arp said. “This is the first time I’ve ever been struck. I was very shocked by it. I have accepted his apology.”
But at least one lawmaker said the day’s testimony was a victory for medical weed despite the vote. In the past, he said, patients would never have been allowed to testify at an open committee hearing.
“For those in the room speaking today, this is huge – that you’re even here allowed to speak before the Judiciary I Committee,” said Rep. Becky Carney, a Democrat and co-sponsor of the defeated bill. “That’s a big step. It’s not a defeat.”
Bill would allow MMJ for chronic, debilitating conditions
The bill would have legalized medical cannabis only for patients with a “chronic, debilitating medical condition.” But hysterical lawmakers pointed to Colorado as proof of what could happen to North Carolina if the devil’s weed is approved.
Patients who testified at the hearing disagreed and pleaded with the committee to let the legislation move forward. Speakers included members of Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition, a local advocacy group.
“If we know that cannabis treats the brain’s injury, how in God’s name can we not let the veterans have it?” asked Perry Parks, a military veteran and marijuana patient who uses the drug to treat chronic pain. “It is immoral to deny veterans the ability to take this medication.”
Several conservative anti-drug groups opposed the bill, including the Christian Action League of North Carolina and the North Carolina Family Policy Council.
“Legalizing marijuana for medical purposes is both unnecessary and a slippery slope,” said Tami Fitzgerald of the North Carolina Values Coalition. “It could open the door to legalizing marijuana for recreational use, which we do not want in this state.”