North Carolina Bill Would Legalize Medical Marijuana; Create Foundation to Thwart Federal Prohibition in Practice

RALEIGH, N.C. (May 2, 2016) – A bill introduced in the North Carolina House would legalize medical marijuana in the state. If signed into law, it would take another step toward blocking the deplorable federal prohibition on cannabis in practice and effect.

Rep. Kelly Alexander (D) introduced House Bill 983 (H983) on April 26 along with 10 bipartisan co-sponsors. The legislation would set in motion the creation of a medical marijuana program in North Carolina under the following guidelines:

"(a) An individual may possess or use marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinols, and is not subject to the penalties described in this Chapter, if the individual satisfies all of the following criteria:

(1) The individual has been diagnosed with a terminal or chronic illness by a licensed physician.

(2) The individual’s use or possession of marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinols occurs pursuant to a written recommendation issued by a licensed physician who, in the course of treating the terminal or chronic illness, has determined that marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinols alleviates the illness or symptoms associated with the illness.

(3) The individual has obtained from the North Carolina Department of Revenue a Medical Marijuana tax stamp…

(4) Unless diagnosed with a chronic illness by a licensed physician, the individual is under hospice care.

(5) The marijuana is for the individual’s personal use.”

Under H983, medical marijuana caregivers would be required to submit “their name, address, Social Security number, and phone number, as well as the name, address, phone number, and illness of each person to whom the dealer distributes medical marijuana.” The caregiver would bear “the burden of proof in establishing that marijuana distributed was medical marijuana.”

The crop would be taxed at “the rate of eight dollars ($8.00) for each ounce, or fraction thereof, of either marijuana, other than separated stems and stalks.” Additional taxes would be levied depending on the potency of the marijuana being sold to qualifying medical patients.

North Carolina already has a very limited medical marijuana law focusing on CBDs, the non-psychoactive property of marijuana, but it leaves the majority of patients without access to medicinal cannabis. H983 would expand current law, ensuring that a wide range of medical patients in North Carolina will have the choice to use marijuana to treat their symptoms.

Despite the federal prohibition on marijuana, measures such as H983 and the ballot proposal remain perfectly lawful, and the feds can do little if anything to stop them in practice.

EFFECT ON FEDERAL PROHIBITION

If the governor signs H983, it would partially remove one layer of law prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana in North Carolina, but federal prohibition would remain in place.

Of course, the federal government lacks any legal authority to ban or regulate marijuana within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.

While this North Carolina bill would not alter federal law, they would take a step toward stopping in effect the federal ban. FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By easing the state laws, the North Carolina legislature would remove some of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.

Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly-budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.

If H983 becomes law, the state will join a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition. Colorado, Washington state and Alaska have all legalized both recreational and medical marijuana, and 23 states now allow cannabis for medical use. With nearly half the country legalizing marijuana, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition any more. The feds need state cooperation to fight the “drug war,” and that has rapidly evaporated in the last few years with state legalization, practically stopping the ban.

“The lesson here is pretty straight forward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,” public policy analyst Michael Boldin said.

NEXT UP

H983 must pass the House Health Committee before moving on to the full House for further consideration.