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House committee kills medical marijuana bill

Posted March 25, 2015
Updated March 29, 2015

Marijuana

— Joseph Malinowski told the House Judiciary I Committee on Wednesday that he doesn't want to be a lawbreaker, but neither does he want to suffer with the aftermath of cancer or the symptoms of multiple sclerosis when medical marijuana can ease the pain.

"I spent 21 days in Harnett County jail, first time in my life I've ever been in any kind of trouble," Malinowski said. "But this helps me. I think it could help a lot more people."

Despite pleas from a number of people who testified that medical cannabis has helped treat either themselves or loved ones, the committee rejected legislation that would have legalized marijuana use for certain patients.

"That's ridiculous," the former network engineer said after he watched the committee quickly draw to a close. "Just for that, I'm willing to sell my house and move out of this state."

Nationwide, 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana use in some form. Many allow for medical use, as the North Carolina would contemplate. However, the drug remains illegal under federal law and is a still a hot-button issue for social conservatives.

"Legalizing marijuana for medical purposes is both unnecessary and a slippery slope," said Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition. "We oppose House Bill 78. It could open the door to legalizing marijuana for recreational use."

Fitzgerald was one of three speakers to urge rejection of the medical marijuana bill, all of them representing socially conservative groups that frequently lobby lawmakers on issues ranging from abortion to alcohol control to gay marriage.

Issued killed for two years

During most debates in state House committees, a bill either passes with a favorable report or fails to meet that test. Even if it fails that vote, the issue is alive and can arise at other times.

The House Judiciary I Committee took the unusual step of issuing an "unfavorable report" on the bill. That has the effect of not only killing this particular piece of legislation but also blocking the House from considering any other measure that might carry a medical marijuana component. That motion passed on a voice vote. No member of the committee could be heard to vote against, and none challenged the ruling of the chairman, both indications that the vote was unanimous.

Two years ago, the House Rules Committee issued a similar unfavorable report on a medical marijuana bill, killing the issue for the 2013-14 session.

"They obviously don't represent us," said Jamie Hargitt, who spoke on behalf of her husband, a wounded Iraq veteran who suffers from Parkinson's disease as result of chemical exposure. "They wouldn't even consider it or listen to anything we said."

Hargitt is an organizer of NC RAMP, North Carolina Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition. Like many who spoke Wednesday, she appealed to committee members to support veterans suffering from brain injuries and appealed to their faith.

"If it's a plant that grows naturally, God gave it to us. It's obviously not bad," she said.

Bill sponsors tried to drive home that their bill was not about the stereotypical dope-smoking users featured in "Harold and Kumar" movies.

"This is not about recreation. A lot of folks wave that red flag about recreation. This is about medicine. This is about doing things to help sick people get better. This is about improving the lives of 800,000 veterans in North Carolina right now," Rep. Kelly Alexander, D-Mecklenburg, told the committee.

Both sides of the debate leaned on conflicting reports and scientific studies.

"The concept of medical marijuana essentially violates every sensibility of the way people in our country believe medication ought to be approved and dispensed," said the Rev. Mark Creech, director of the Christian Action League. "Testimonials are not science. Emotions, or even compassion, don't trump wisdom."

Passions high at the end of the meeting

No lawmakers on the committee spoke for or against the bill during the meeting. Rather, they simply voted and quickly left the room.

That sparked a rumble of discontent after the meeting and one of the bill's supporters was accused of punching Rep. Dean Arp, R-Union, in the back.

According to General Assembly Police, that individual was briefly detained but no charges were filed.

"There was a lot of passionate debate on the issue," Arp said when asked about the incident. The lawmakers said he had received a note of apology and considered the incident "resolved."

It was Arp who made the motion for an unfavorable report. Hours after the meeting Arp said he had concerns about workplace safety for jobs like construction.

"Obviously the stories are heart-wrenching," Arp said. But, he said, the stories didn't sway him. "I don't think it's appropriate," Arp said of the bill.

45 Comments

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  • Joe Malinowski Mar 30, 2015
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    I'm sorry if my story offended you in some way. Why is what I go through on a daily basis less important than what that mother and son go through. My heart goes out to them, if it where my son I would use whatever GOD gave us to try and better his life. I'm not asking for anyone to give me anything all I want is the right to treat my body as I see fit and not have to worry about going to jail over a PLANT!!!!

  • Nicolle Leney Mar 27, 2015
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    I agree with legalizing medical marijuana. It can help people, and it's usually structured so that people aren't getting high off it anyway. I think it's a crime that some parents have to move to a different state just to control their child's seizure. My pharma comment was in reply to Wake_Up's comment about the pharma companies paying off politicians to keep medical marijuana. I really don't think it's the pharma companies...the politicians don't need to be payed off. Just like other legislation, I really feel like they (misguidedly) think they are doing the right thing. We don't realize it in the Triangle, but the majority of the state feels differently on a lot of things than we do. The marriage amendment voting map (http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-GbSFJ8gfwbo/T63ac9HZztI/AAAAAAAAGKE/9nOiu1YGWjk/s1600/joB7S.jpg) is a perfect illustration of this. Maybe, like that "law" the Federal government will step in before the 2 years are up.

  • Jon Bowden Mar 27, 2015
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    Unfortunately, the 'Christian Action League' and the Tami F. of the 'North Carolina Values Coalition' are in full-blown Carrie Nation mode. They're giving Christians a bad image as blue-nosed prohibitionists who are afraid that someone somewhere might do something they disapprove of, so they want to use the power of the state to enforce their personal preferences.
    Cannabis has some medical benefits. It has other benefits, too, similar to alcohol and apple pie with ice cream. It should not be the business of the state what a free man (or woman) eats, drinks, smokes in their pipe, or grows in their garden.

  • Charlie Jaxon Mar 27, 2015
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    Does it look like we are living in Europe? Not hardly. WHY would they have legalized "man-made" cannabis based when marijuana is an all natural plant and flower? What are they adding to that cannabis based that will not cause some kind of health problems for the users? The worst thing that marijuana is going to cause you to do is go to sleep or eat. IT is not going to make you have withdrawals that pain meds do! But I get it! You just want a bunch of drunk pill popping addicts just like the NC government does. Instead of having a healthier, happier and productive population in this state! Looks like this state will be living in the dark ages with all of the bible thumpers. While the rest of the country is living in the future and letting the people choose what right for themselves.

  • Alan Baker Mar 26, 2015
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    Which aren't anywhere near as effective, cost a lot more, and only make billions due to the ridiculously strict laws on any kind of study of the uses of the plant due to its "drug" status. If synthetics worked as well this would be a dead issue, but sadly they don't.
    I'm actually on the fence about legalization but even I know derivatives aren't the solution.

  • Stephen Downey Mar 26, 2015
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    Pharmaceutical companies have been marketing marijuana derivatives for over 30 years in America and make billions off them. look up marinol.

  • Nicolle Leney Mar 26, 2015
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    Actually, there are pharma companies who are researching cannabis-based drugs. Some have already gone through regulatory approval. For example Sativex has been approved in the UK and parts of Europe since 2010-2011. It's in Phase 3 testing in the US right now. People keep wanting to blame "big pharma" but as another poster said, I think a lot of it is ignorance. Just like with the gay marriage bills. These people thought it made perfect sense to keep fighting something decided on by the US Supreme Court because it violated the Constitution anyway! I'm sure if they had relatives or friends that are dealing with severe pain that could be helped by medical marijuana, and they saw their pain, they would feel differently. I've heard with those really severe seizures, it can pretty much save the kid's life. How can someone deny a kid their life (or a far better quality of one). It just doesn't make sense.

  • Buford Justice Mar 26, 2015
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    From the story: " but neither does he want to suffer with the aftermath of cancer or the symptoms of multiple sclerosis when medical marijuana can ease the pain."

    He is getting over cancer? Does he know that marijuana contains at least 50 cancer causing carcinogens, such as benzyprene?

    Guess not.

  • Matt Wood Mar 26, 2015
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    I have two bachelor's degrees, a master's degree (all from a UNC system university), and a stable IT job in at Fortune 500 company I've been employed with for 7 years. I own my house and my car, and I volunteer regularly in the community. I partake of MJ every single day (after work). Does that make me an underachiever?

  • Alan Baker Mar 26, 2015
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    "True" being a more depressing and disappointing description than you'll ever know. Truly ignorant, truly backwards, truly heartless, truly proud of those traits, it's sad that people imagine people like these when they think of North Carolina.

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