Medical marijuana legislation coming to North Carolina

- North Carolina House of Representatives member Kelly Alexander (D) plans to help introduce medical marijuana legislation this year. The thing is, this isn't a surprise. Alexander has been doing so since he was sworn in to office in 2009.

"Why do you keep doing it?" FOX 46 Charlotte's David Sentendrey asked Alexander. "Because I think it's right," he said.

A 2017 Elon Poll showed 80 percent of North Carolina voters are in favor of medical marijuana. Still, Alexander said it’s an issue many politicians hide from – literally.

“Do you know that when advocates first started coming to Raleigh on the issue that you had [lawmakers] that basically hid in their officers, locked their doors, because they didn’t want to talk to people about drugs?” Alexander said.

Alexander has called for a professional lobbyist to cover marijuana in Raleigh. The group NC NORML told FOX 46 Charlotte it is working to raise money and hire a full-time lobbyist to send along with groups of citizen lobbyists.

FOX 46 Charlotte wanted to find out where elected leaders stand on the issue so we reached out to all 17 members of the North Carolina General Assembly who cover Mecklenburg County. Ten got back to us.

Representatives Alexander (D), John Autry (D), Mary Belk (D), John Bradford III (R), Carla Cunningham (D) and Rodney Moore (D) all told FOX 46 Charlotte they can support medical marijuana.

Representative Chaz Beasley (D) did not give a yes/no answer but said, “I think the federal government should regulate it in a manner consistent with medical research (as opposed to the current process of blanket illegalization).

Senators Joel Ford (D) and Joyce Waddell (D) each told FOX 46 Charlotte they support medical marijuana. Senator Jeff Tarte (R) said he does not support medical marijuana at this time – but he could see a scenario where he changes his mind.

“My wife went through breast cancer,” Tarte said. “She’s about 7 months or so from the therapy, radiation and chemo from last year. And this is one straight-laced, uber-conservative woman who doesn’t smoke, never tried marijuana in her entire life, she’s 58-years old and basically what she said to me is if she had it recur she would probably go somewhere where she could use medical marijuana to fight the nausea because it’s pretty ugly.”

“There’s great concern over the overall healthcare costs to the state,” Tarte said. “As people start using this drug, there’s issues that the state is stepping up to take care of these folks."

“You’ve got a lot of lost worker productivity that’s starting to occur in those companies statewide. You’ve got D.U.I.’s starting to increase.”

Representatives William Brawley (R), Becky Carney (D), Andy Dulin (R), Beverley Earle (D) and Scott Stone (R) did not respond to our requests for comment by our deadline. Senators Dan Bishop (R) and Jeff Jackson (D) did not respond by our deadline.

Rep. Alexander said there are a lot of stereotypes surrounding cannabis that need to be broken in Raleigh before some leaders change their minds on the drug.

“I used to joke about the Cheech and Chong effect,” Alexander said. “Whether it’s Cheech and Chong, Harold and Kumar – pick your comedian. Too many folks in the legislature viewed cannabis when you first started talking about it in those terms.’

FOX 46 Charlotte reached out to Carolinas HealthCare System and Novant Health to interview a doctor about marijuana but each declined our request. We talked to Dr. Uma Dhanabalan, MD. MPH. FAAFP. in Massachusetts who recommends cannabis.

“It’s absolutely important for everybody to understand that there’s an endocannabinoid system (in our bodies),” Dr. Dhanabalan said. “And therefore I look at cannabis not only as treatment but also as prevention of illnesses. So, everybody could possibly benefit from it."

Cannabis is listed, federally, as a Schedule I Drug which, by the book, means it has “no medical value.”

“It’s criminal, it’s criminal,” Dr. Dhanabalan said. “And at this point its arrogance. We have this thing known as the World Wide Web and people can find out the information that nobody in the world has ever died from a cannabis overdose and we are having over 100 deaths-per day right now from opioids."

“I want everybody to know that stigma is the primary cause of why doctors are not talking about this and the information is not provided,” she added.

Contact your NC representative today to get results: https://www.ncleg.net/gascripts/members/memberlist.pl?sChamber=House

Contact your state senator to get results: https://www.ncleg.net/gascripts/members/memberList.pl?sChamber=senate

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