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North Carolina revives the possibility of legalizing medical marijuana

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RALEIGH, NC (AP) — North Carolina senators are pushing to legalize medical marijuana again, but it’s unclear if the state House will approve it.

A Senate bill that was originally intended to add state regulations to hemp products experienced a major facelift on Wednesday when lawmakers added a provision legalizing medical marijuana. The amendment would apply to qualifying patients who have a “debilitating medical condition” such as cancer or epilepsy to be prescribed medical cannabis by a doctor.

It comes amid a pending decision by the U.S. Department of Justice to drop marijuana as a Schedule I drug to Schedule III and recognize its medical uses.

The original bill — which added several regulations for hemp products that are legal under federal law — was approved in a committee Wednesday morning before a Senate floor vote. Federal law allows for the sale of hemp products with concentrations of less than 0.3% of delta-9 THC, which is one of the main psychoactive substances found in traditional cannabis.

The hemp regulations bill was suddenly sent back to the Senate Judiciary Committee to add the 35-page medical marijuana provision Wednesday afternoon.

The new provision outlines requirements for physicians to prescribe medical marijuana, how people can get a medical marijuana identification card, what it takes to get a medical cannabis supplier license and restrictions on smoking in certain places.

Patients who qualify for using cannabis medically would need written certification from a physician under the bill.

The original hemp legislation that still remains prohibits sales of those goods to people under 21, requires testing before distribution and mandates obtaining licenses to sell legal hemp products such as THC gummies and cannabis-infused drinks.

Despite its renewed Senate momentum, House Republicans’ current stance on legalizing medical marijuana is murky. Just earlier this month, House Speaker Tim Moore indicated it didn’t have enough support.

“In no uncertain terms, there are not the votes in this caucus right now for this bill,” Moore said.

Senate Rules Chairman Bill Rabon, a vocal advocate for medical marijuana, told The Associated Press after committee that he reached out to Moore Wednesday morning but did not hear back. He also spoke with other House leaders and caucus members about the amendment, but had “no idea” whether they would consider approving it.

“I’m very optimistic, but I’m also very persistent,” the Brunswick County Republican said.

The Senate previously attempted to legalize medical marijuana last year under legislation led by Rabon, who said he smoked pot while undergoing chemotherapy for colon cancer. Lacking enough votes in the House after the Senate’s approval, the medical marijuana bill died last session.

Medical cannabis products are legal in 38 states and the District of Columbia, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The amended bill will be voted on in the Senate on Thursday, then again on Monday, Rabon said.



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