WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - A new bill introduced into the North Carolina Senate could let patients suffering from debilitating illnesses legally consume marijuana for the first time in the state if passed.
It’s known as the North Carolina Compassionate Care Act and it has backing from local, Republican state lawmakers.
Republican Senators Michael Lee and Bill Rabon, along with Democrat Paul Lowe are the primary sponsors of the bill that would protect doctors and patients from criminal and civil penalties imposed by law enforcement under current laws. It would also allow the growth and sale of cannabis in North Carolina.
“That bill is essentially a medical cannabis bill, and it essentially allows for cannabis to be grown, manufactured, processed, in North Carolina, and ultimately sold to someone who has received a prescription for certain severe medical illnesses,” Lee said.
While Lee admits there are ‘always’ bills introduced to the legislature related to cannabis, this one is unique in the fact that is it a bipartisan effort.
“There are always bills related to medical cannabis and the legalization of cannabis, I think this is probably the first bill that has been introduced by republicans and democrats,” he said. “It’s a bipartisan bill that looks at medical cannabis as a way to help those who have these severe debilitating conditions to manage those symptoms.
When asked what exactly prompted the bill, Lee said that everyone knows someone who is affected by some sort of debilitating illness and the goal is simply to allow them to get relief.
Recreational marijuana has become more commonplace across the country as more states vote to allow adults to use cannabis, but that is not something Lee said he is in favor of, and that is not what this bill would do.
“I don’t support recreational marijuana - legalization - this is really defined toward medical cannabis and even the debilitating conditions are relatively severe debilitating conditions, it’s not just a floodgates approach where you can have it for any type of condition it really is a little more narrow than that,” he said.
So far Lee said he has seen all kinds of responses to his bill, both in favor of and against. He expects it to move forward in the legislature in the next few weeks but expects the bill will change in appearance, as they so often do, before it is voted on.