Raleigh, N.C. — House lawmakers easily approved two bills Thursday that were expected to be controversial – requiring license plates for mopeds and legalizing the medical use of a compound found in marijuana.
House Bill 1220 would allow the medically supervised use of cannabidiol, or CBD, a compound found in marijuana.
Sponsor Rep. Pat McElraft, R-Carteret, was overcome with emotion as she pleaded with the House to help the many children in the state who suffer from intractable epilepsy disorders. She told the House the plants used to make the drug have been genetically altered to produce almost no THC, the psychoactive substance found in regular marijuana.
"This genetically engineered plant is no longer called marijuana. With the [federal] Farm Bill last year, it’s now considered hemp," McElraft said. "The 'M word' doesn’t even appear in the bill, so don’t be afraid that this is the camel’s nose under the tent."
That was the concern of social conservatives, some of whom worried the legislation would open the door to legalizing medical marijuana use in North Carolina. But supporters of the bill assured them that wasn't the case.
Rep. Jim Fulghum, R-Wake, a doctor, said the legislation is needed to allow a clinical FDA trial of a CBD drug at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The measure, which struggled at first to get enough traction to even win a committee hearing, breezed through the House 111-2.
It now goes to the Senate, which may or may not take it up in what's left of the short session.
As critics are quick to point out, proposals to regulate mopeds have been floated for years at the General Assembly under both parties with little success. That changed Thursday, as House lawmakers voted 83-29 to require mopeds to have license plates and a Division of Motor Vehicles registration.
House Bill 1584 initially required mopeds to carry liability and personal injury insurance, but that section was removed from the bill in the House Finance Committee on Thursday morning, a change that apparently boosted the measure's support among members.
"We’re still not requiring they have a driver's license. We are requiring that they have registration," said sponsor Rep. Phil Shepard, R-Onslow. "This is not an attempt to keep anyone from driving a moped."
The bill includes a study by the Transportation Oversight Committee into whether additional regulations for mopeds are necessary. Shepard said registration will provide the study with data on the number of mopeds on the roads, accident rates and other statistics.
The yearly registration would cost $15. Owners would have to produce a manufacturer's certificate of origin for the moped. If they don't have one, they'd have to pay $40 to apply for a title.
"I don’t think that’s asking too much of anyone," Shepard said.
Even after the insurance provision's removal, the proposal still got some push-back from both sides of the aisle.
"People on bicycles run into cars, too. There’s no difference. Will you do it to bicycles next year? Because it’s coming," said Rep. Mike Stone, R-Lee. "People need basic transportation."
"We don’t need to get into the business of trying to regulate every single thing in this state to make money," said Rep. Marcus Brandon, D-Guilford. "If you're against regulation, don't vote for this."
The final vote did not fall along party lines, with Republicans and Democrats on both sides.
Like the hemp oil bill, the moped bill also goes next to the Senate, where its fate is similarly uncertain.