State rep. Kelly Alexander says that while this is the third or fourth time such legislation has been proposed, this may be the first year it truly has a chance of passing. "I think the climate in the state and the climate in the country has significantly changed," he said.
Alexander, a funeral director, says he was motivated to push this bill by meeting the families of people who could have benefitted from medical cannabis. "I've heard stories that have convinced me that this is something that has an overwhelming humanitarian dimension. Plus, there's a lot of evidence that it works. The only reason that it is not available is politics. Not science, not medicine."
If passed, House Bill 84 would allow medical marijuana patients to possess up to 24 ounces and grow for themselves so long as their garden doesn't exceed "250 feet of total garden canopy". Patients would also be able to designate someone else as a caregiver. The program would be open to patients suffering from a wide range of conditions including: cancer, glaucoma, AIDS/HIV, Alzheimer's disease, celiac disease, Crohn's, spinal injuries, and sleep apnea among others. Language in the bill also leaves other conditions open for consideration, so long as the patient has a doctor's recommendation. Alexander's bill would also create licensed, state-regulated medical marijuana centers.
The language not only would protect medical marijuana patients from arrest and prosecution, but it would also prevent them from being denied any rights and privileges at the state level, including occupational licensing. That's a big step that states like Colorado don't have and protects medical marijuana patients who are nurses, teachers and other state-licensed employees. The bill would also protect parents from any charges of neglect or endangerment for simply using state-legal medical cannabis.
North Carolina Rep. Kelly Alexander.
Driving under the influence of cannabis would remain illegal, but the bill's language also says that qualified patients "shall not be considered impaired solely due to the presence of cannabis metabolites" in their system. Also huge in the bill is the charge that the University of North Carolina would conduct "objective scientific research" on the efficacy and safety of medical cannabis use. The study findings would be used in the future to create guidelines for treatment as well as for quality and purity.
The key to the bill passing, Alexander says, is getting bi-partisan support from his colleagues - something he says is more likely than ever. We are beginning to get some new members in the legislature and with some of these folks, they have a more open mind and are willing to look at the evidence before they come to a conclusion."rep
Alexander says that in addition to his efforts, the North Carolina Cannabis Patients Network has gotten the message out to their supporters. Alexander says that by next week, there are some 600 NCCPN members signed up to speak with their various representatives about the issue.
"If indeed we can get this done, it contributes to the momentum to change our overall drug policies," Alexander said. "It is something the time has just come."