North Carolina Legislators Introduce Bill to Decriminalize Medical Marijuana
While North Carolina legislators have previously discussed legalizing medical marijuana throughout the state, in late March, they took steps towards making this a reality by filing House Bill 401 – the Medical Cannabis Act. The bill protects patients who have debilitating medical conditions from arrest and prosecution by providing them with registry identification cards and allowing them to participate in the medical use of marijuana. The bill could have a huge impact on marijuana-related arrests in North Carolina, as, according to research cited in the bill, 99 out of every 100 cannabis arrests are conducted under state versus federal law.
The bill filed in North Carolina would not only protect those in need of medical marijuana, but their caregivers and physicians as well from arrest, prosecution, and any criminal penalties, including property forfeiture. While it does not specify how much, exactly, is legal to possess and/or use at any given time, it states that an amount that does not exceed what is necessary to yield “the uninterrupted availability of cannabis for a period of three months” would be “usable” under the law.
Benefits From Legalizing Medical Marijuana
The bill followed a study completed by the Institute of Cannabis Research at Colorado State University, which concluded that legalizing medical marijuana could produce positive outcomes when it comes to income and inequality and other concerns, such as reducing homelessness amongst military veterans who are directly affected by strict marijuana laws. Specifically, the study found that veterans who suffer from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder are, in a number of cases, migrating out of state in order to obtain medical marijuana legally. The laws have thus created with the study terms “homeless cannabis refugees.“
Still, some are concerned that there are health risks associated with the growing process; specifically; emissions that marijuana plants release; and any potential negative effects on air quality.
Some are also concerned that North Carolina’s new laws could fly in the face of federal law, and therefore, individuals could still be arrested. While there has long been tension between the federal government and federal ban on marijuana use, and states such as Washington and California, which legalized marijuana use years ago, it is important to note that states are not required to enforce federal law or prosecute individuals who violate federal laws.
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The bill has been referred to the General Assembly’s Committee on Health and, if it passes, will next go to Judiciary, Finance and Rules Committee.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a marijuana-related or other drug crime, contact our experienced North Carolina drug crime attorneys at Dysart Willis today to find out how we can help.