House committee kills medical marijuana bill

Posted February 20, 2013 2:19 p.m. EST
Updated February 20, 2013 3:20 p.m. EST

— The House Rules Committee has killed a bill that would have legalized medical marijuana, an effort by House leaders to stem a tide of phone calls and emails on the topic.

It is somewhat unusual to give a measure an unfavorable report. Typically, bills that won't pass merely sit in committee unheard and untended.

"We did it to be done with it, so people could move on for the session," said Rep. Paul "Skip" Stam, R-Wake. He said lawmakers we're being "harassed" with phone calls and emails about medical marijuana.

The committee listened to public comments about the bill for about 20 minutes before voting.

"Today, my purpose is to convince all of you to legalize marijuana for medical purposes," said Catherine Lyles, 51, of Raleigh. She told the committee that she had been treated for brain cancer 17 years ago and was expected to live only five years. 

After the committee meeting, Lyles said that marijuana had helped her recover from the illness by getting rid of nausea that wouldn't even let her approach a bowl of chicken soup. She said she began investigating marijuana at the suggestion of medical professionals, who said they couldn't legally prescribe any drug that would work as well.

"It was quite a problem. I didn't know anyone who smoked pot," she said, adding that her mother and best friend helped track down some cannabis through a network of childhood friends.

"I cannot tell you how quick and complete the relief I had from horrible nausea was," she said.

Most other speakers and visitors who crowded into the committee room were there to urge lawmakers to embrace medical marijuana. Only one person, Jere Royall with the North Carolina Family Policy Council, urged lawmakers to vote down the bill.

The only lawmaker who spoke at length about the measure was Rep. Kelly Alexander, D-Mecklenburg, one of the bill's sponsors. He said prior fiscal studies showed the state could reap $39 million per year if medical marijuana were legal.

North Carolina, he said, would be the 19th state to legalize medical marijuana if it passed the bill, he said. 

However, that won't happen this year.

Under House Rules, when a bill given an unfavorable report, "the contents of that bill or the principal provisions of its subject matter shall not be considered in any other measure originating in the Senate or originating thereafter in the House."