Lawmaker wants NC voters to decide on legalizing medical marijuana

Posted May 21, 2014
Updated May 22, 2014

— A state lawmaker wants to put the issue of medical marijuana before North Carolina voters as a proposed constitutional amendment.

Rep. Kelly Alexander, D-Mecklenburg, filed House Bill 1161 on Tuesday calling for a referendum on the November ballot to legalize the cultivation and use of marijuana in North Carolina to treat more than two dozen "debilitating medical conditions," from cancer and Lou Gehrig's disease to incontinence and sleep apnea.

Alexander filed a medical marijuana bill last year that was quickly defeated in committee. He said putting it to a statewide vote should give lawmakers some cover in voting for a controversial measure.

"They may think somebody's going to come along in an election and try to say that they're stoners or something," he said Wednesday. "I call it the Cheech and Chong effect."

Alexander noted that some polls show a majority of North Carolinians favor legalizing medical marijuana and called on fellow lawmakers to let everyone decide instead of snuffing out the issue in the General Assembly.

"If indeed you believe the will of the people, then let's vote this through and let's put it where the people make the ultimate decision,” he said.

Constitutional amendments are extremely difficult to pass, requiring super-majorities in both the state House and Senate before going to the voters.

Rep. Pat McElraft, R-Carteret, said she's confident that Alexander's proposal "will never see the light of day," but she fears that it could sink a bill she plans to file next week.

McElraft wants to legalize an oil extracted from a specific strain of marijuana to treat children who suffer a form of epilepsy that causes dozens of seizures every day.

Some North Carolina families have moved to Colorado to obtain Realm Oil, which they say dramatically reduce their children's seizures. The oil is legal in Colorado but is illegal in North Carolina.

Realm Oil is made from a strain of marijuana called Charlotte's Web that has extremely low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, but has extraordinarily high levels of CBD, or cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive component that research shows has a growing number of therapeutic benefits.

"You can drink the whole bottle and never get high," McElraft said.

She opposes widespread legalization of medical marijuana but said something like Realm Oil, which would still be illegal to produce in North Carolina, should be allowed for pediatric patients.

"They've tried every drug possible for these children, and nothing has been helping them," she said. "We finally have found something that is helping."

Alexander said he will support McElraft's bill but said he would like to see it help more people.

Liz Gorman, who took her daughter, Maddie, to Colorado last year so Maddie could get Realm Oil, said she admires Alexander's devotion to his cause but hopes it doesn't endanger McElraft's bill.

"The bills being introduced by Rep Alexander and that of Rep McElraft are completely separate and substantially different," Gorman wrote in an email. "(We have) worked tirelessly alongside Rep McElraft to craft a bill which would allow limited access to a medicine (CBD oil) that could change the lives of children with catastrophic epilepsy in NC. We are very hopeful that this can be accomplished this session."


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  • bareftndncin May 22, 2014

    I absolutely, 100%, without a doubt, support it. This is about legalizing a use for a PLANT that can drastically improve the quality of life for children and their families. I see this as a no-brainer...but this is NC, so we'll see. That being said, I do also support the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes, it would make it more difficult for underage people to obtain, increase our tax revenue (without continuing to pile it on to our already sky-high taxes), lower the prison populations, allow access to a highly sustainable and versatile cash crop...I could go on a on about it but that's neither here nor there in this case. I can see it now, NC will allow fracking but won't allow an organic medicine. "Common sense" is a dirty phrase around these parts.

  • Enough is Enough People May 22, 2014

    I find it very funny that the FBI Director, James Comey, stated yesterday that the FBI is concerned that the FBI is losing out on potential recruits over Cannabis use. (A drug that a majority of Americans believe should be legal.) The FBI is finding that the majority of new applicants to their cyber terrorist division are regular users of Cannabis. Therefore, Mr Comey is looking at lifting Cannabis from their band substances for potential employees. I just find that too funny.

  • jackaroe123 May 22, 2014

    I didn't read all the comments, but here's an angle in favor of legalization I think people often overlook: Legalization and regulation will make it more difficult for underage people to get. The average teenager would have a much easier time getting pot than he or she would alcohol b/c there isn't as much of a black market for booze and pot dealers don't check IDs. If there's a designated, accredited business in charge of pot, the street dealer is out of business and people over 21 who use pot are legitimized in that to the point they may be less inclined to cross that line and share w/ kids.

    You'd also take violence out of the equation b/c no one would desperately resort to it to avoid arrest, defend territory, etc.

    It would also be a great cash crop and economic boom for NC farmers.

    It should be pretty clear that squashing marijuana use is a losing proposition. Bend a little. Control it more effectively.

  • lovethecrazycomment May 22, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Best comment on here~

  • davidgnews May 22, 2014

    There's no room for common sense in this legislature. They can't even privatize liquor sales or allow statewide gambling other than a silly lottery.

    The marijuana revenue being collected now in Colorado will be hard to ignore by the sensible people, though.

    This has always been a government-created problem, yet the government refuses to solve it.

  • Joe Crain May 22, 2014
    user avatar

    I will start this by saying that I have NEVER smoked marijuana (or anything else, for that matter). I can't imagine choosing to inhale pollutants into my lungs. I need them for very important things, like breathing. I think cigarettes are disgusting.

    However, with that said, I also wholeheartedly support the 100% legalization of a natural substance. Regardless of its possible health benefits, it is proven less harmful than tobacco (which is legal).

    I seriously don't understand people in one breath saying that citizen's individual rights should be protected while at the same time limiting their rights in areas that have ZERO impact on anyone else.

    Legalize it, smoke it, eat, whatever you want! I will stand behind you 100% (except when you're partaking in said plant, in which case, call me when you're finished).

  • TheCape May 22, 2014

    Be nice to stop wasting tax payer dollars and resources on marijuana related crimes. It also has strong construction and medical capabilities. When and how can we express support for legalization?

  • heavychevy May 22, 2014

    Strange how a "free" people can't choose for themselves what they want to put into their own bodies. I guess sometimes others just know what's best for you. - Said no one ever.

  • rushbot May 22, 2014

    we ought to tax it and allow the sale.....the delta between taxes into the state coffers if it were legal vs law enforcement expenses out of the state coffers due to it not being legal is enormous.....it has been 50 or so years since i remember being around it, but none of the users or "experimenters" i knew back in the day did crimes of violence like drunks do.....nor did they drive around...they stayed home, watched the tube......and ate...........having said that, i believe laws ought to be draconian and enforced ruthlessly against amphetamine, cocaine and heroin.....

  • rushbot May 22, 2014

    View quoted thread

    i believe that most people who use cannabis for health reasons are aware of the vaporizers and use them if they have concerns....