North Carolina inches closer to legalization of medicinal marijuana

YES TO CANNABIS: Pro-cannabis advocates are asking the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners to pressure state lawmakers to approve medicinal marijuana. Stock photo

North Carolina could conceivably be one of the next states to legalize marijuana use for medicinal purposes, according to a report by

The website cites a bill, introduced by Representative Kelly Alexander in late January 2015, that has passed its first reading in the North Carolina General Assembly. This comes on the heels of a decision by Gov. Pat McCrory last year to sign a law allowing limited use of cannabis derivatives to treat seizures.

Bill H78 states that “Modern medical research has discovered beneficial uses for cannabis in treating or alleviating pain, nausea, and other symptoms associated with certain debilitating medical conditions,” and also finds that “99 out of every 100 cannabis arrests in the United States are made under state law, rather than under federal law,” and suggests that legalization at the state level would protect the seriously ill from facing prosecution.

A recent poll suggests a majority of voters support medical marijuana. Poll courtesy of
A recent poll suggests a majority of voters support medical marijuana. Poll courtesy of

The bill also provides an outline for the legal cultivation and distribution of marijuana products for medical uses, according to The Marijuana Policy Project.

Medicinal products would go towards treatment of such physical and mental illnesses as anorexia, PTSD, Chrohn’s disease and cancer treatment, depending on patient.

“There is concern that people will use the law to get [prescriptions unethically], but that concern already exists in the prescription of medicine pill mills,” Robert Capecchi, deputy director of state policies for Marijuana Policy Project, told Higher Perspective. “In addition, marijuana is nonlethal and lacks the life-ending side effects that certain prescription medicines have.”

This isn’t the first time Rep. Alexander has introduced a bill on medical marijuana; a similar proposal in 2013 was shot down by the House Rules Committee within two weeks.

However, with other states like Colorado, Washington, and Alaska moving forward with the legalization of cannabis, Alexander sees this latest bill as simple progress. “It’s an inevitable thing,” he told The Daily Tar Heel in 2014. “Trying to stop that movement reminds me of somebody marching out to the beach, holding up their hand and saying the tide will not rise.”

Rep. Kelly Alexander medical marijuana legalization is a sensible move towards the future. Photo courtesy
Rep. Kelly Alexander medical marijuana legalization is a sensible move towards the future. Photo courtesy

While the tides may be turning in the discussion on legalized pot, some North Carolinians still worry that it’s the first step down a slippery slope. “Just because it is legal does not mean it is safe,” says Daniel Perry, Duke University’s Alcohol and Drug Program Coordinator, as reported by the Duke Chronicle. “Just because it is considered medicinal does not mean you shouldn’t be informed before putting it in your body.”

Buncombe County Sheriff Van Duncan also has reservations about the proposal, as stated to the Asheville Citizen-Times in a recent interview. “A lot of people think it’s no more harmful than alcohol,” Duncan said. “I would argue that marijuana is one of the most destructive drugs out there.” However, Duncan admitted that legalization is “probably going to continue to spread. Every time it happens in one state, it makes it harder for other states to enforce.”

Public opinion in NC on the bill varies depending on the source, but several posters on the Buncombe County Politics Facebook page and Reddit support the legalization of cannabis for treatment of certain illnesses. “I have seen how effective it can be with wounded and ill heroes at VA Medical Centers,” said Facebook poster Tom Aardema. “I’m for it.”

Bill H78 will now go to a special House Committee, which will conduct further studies into the proposal and offer amendments and recommendations to the bill before it comes up for consideration by the NC House of Representatives.

Learn more from NC NORML here.

More on the NC General Assembly Law-Making Process.


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About Max Hunt
Max Hunt grew up in South (New) Jersey and graduated from Warren Wilson College in 2011. History nerd; art geek; connoisseur of swimming holes, hot peppers, and plaid clothing. Follow me @J_MaxHunt

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62 thoughts on “North Carolina inches closer to legalization of medicinal marijuana

  1. Jason Brendle

    It still blew me away that we argue over the legality of a plant, outlawing nature!! Not even mentioning the un discovered benefits, medically and industriously, of this plant

    • Xavier

      Which ever States legalize it first are gonna make more profit off of it first, cause in the end it’s gonna be legal in all of the U.S. I don’t know they are seeing this as a bad thing. When this is the answer.

    • Mitch Hall

      i honestly hate this debate. its like were asking the politicians to smoke it, all we ask is for the option to treat ourselves. and all the medical talk. you dont have to have cancer to reap the benefits, Ive been diagnosed with adhd by 100 different doctors and pot is the only thing that helps.

    • Wolf

      I agree, what these people are doing is the same as a crime, if people who are dying ask for the legalization of a medicine that has been neglected yet found to be less harmful than all these other drugs like pills, alcohol and cigars it shouldn’t even be debated that it should be legal, I really hope someday people think of others like god wants instead of thinking about their selves all the time because after all It would help both the citizens and economy of the NC state, why not prosper?

    • Will

      (Full) Legalization would: boost NC economy, cut all the drug dealers out of the marijuana business, boost agriculture, help people out who are very sick and those who could use it for something as simple as getting better sleep, possibly slow deforestation, as well as many other benefits. Alcohol and tobacco should be illegal before cannabis.

  2. Max Hunt

    I think Mr. Alexander would agree with you, Jason. He made a lot of the same points in interviews he’s given on the topic the past couple years.

  3. Ernie C

    1 up on Jason Brendle… why does no one bring up that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson etc. grew hemp and touted its benefits. Early drafts of the Bill of Rights and Constitution were written on… you guessed it! U.S. Gov’t actually required farmers to grow hemp for parachutes during WW1. In fact, hemp strains need to be low in THC because the higher the potency, the gummier the fiber is and so it’s worse for the machinery… not to mention the fact that hemp is harvested while still vegetating – allowing for two harvests per year and rendering it completely un-smokeable as there are no buds or resin glands yet formed. Maybe good for a weak batch of brownies, but nah… Seriously though, it’s perfectly legal to grow poppies in my yard as long as I don’t make heroin, but why would I? That stuff’s dangerous. Weed? Come on… Let’s say it together… “NATURALLY OCCURRING PLANT!” Gardeners getting longer sentences than rapists? Enough said.

  4. David

    With regards to this substance, keep this in mind – it’s not a war on drugs it’s a war on personal freedom…carry on…

    • john

      yes it is , David,,, it is also an overruling of GOD,s law. I give the seed bearing plants of the earth, to all mankind. I REST MY CASE !!

  5. Nate

    The Republicans who are currently running the show in Raleigh are not going to pass this bill. They shot it down the last time this Democratic legislator brought it up, and they’ll shoot it down again this time, probably before it even comes to a vote in the full NC House. Saying that medical marijuana is “inching forward” should require that at least SOME actual progress is visible, shouldn’t it?

    • Smills

      Yes, that is absolutely true. The followup story should be about how this modest proposal gets shot down, and who does the shooting.

  6. Max Hunt

    There’s definitely a chance it gets shot down again, Nate. However, from everything I’ve researched and read, there seems to be a sense that there may be less opposition to the bill than in previous attempts. Money talks, and whether they agree with the principles, I don’t think Republicans can deny that there’s the potential for a lot revenue to be generated for the state through a comprehensive medical program, plus all the licensing and permits from growers and distributors.

    The House Committee’s findings will tell us a lot about where the legislature is on this.

    • Edie

      The sad thing about North Carolina is “the good Ole boys” still have pull. They have kept this State from growing and keeping family owned businesses from prospering. They would rather give by tax incentives to industrial corporations who bring nothing to the state. Look how our farmers have been treated. We need to wake up our politicians and let them know to work for us or get the hell out of office. Get these good old boys out for good! !

      • Chris

        Or perhaps you people that aren’t even originally from here should go back to where you came from cause we sure don’t want you. I’m for legalization but am glad to in a state that still holds most of its conservative values.

        • Max Hunt

          I agree that there definitely should be checks and balances in this state or any system, Chris, and there is definitely something to be said for retaining traditional values.

          That being said, I don’t think one can say that conservative values “belong” to either political party. And just because somebody was not born in the state that one lives doesn’t mean they can’t have an opinion. Unless one is a full-blooded Cherokee, nobody is originally from here.

      • Tommy C

        when would those brainless, selfish, mad dogs will expire? Sick n tired eating the same cat food. We need better brands and better everything. Miauuuu!!

  7. Dionysis

    Perhaps Republicans in Raleigh will consider the recent move by one of their ideological brethren in the ultra-conservative state of Texas. Rep. David Simpson on Monday of this week introducted a bill that would remove marijuana from state drug laws. As he stated earlier this week:

    “the “plant be regulated like tomatoes, jalapeños or coffee.” Growers and consumers would pay taxes on marijuana like it was any other product, but there would be no additional “sin” taxes.

    “All that God created is good, including marijuana. God did not make a mistake when he made marijuana that the government needs to fix,” Simpson said in a statement. “Let’s allow the plant to be utilized for good — helping people with seizures, treating warriors with PTSD, producing fiber and other products — or simply for beauty and enjoyment. Government prohibition should be for violent actions that harm your neighbor — not of the possession, cultivation, and responsible use of plants.”

  8. Christopher mcconnell

    Hello my name is Christopher and I have smoke marijuana before for my in my legs, lower back the reason why I smoked marijuana is because what the doctors give me don’t work or put me to sleep I am married and have 4 kids and I need to be able to be there for them they are 5 months, 2,3,4 years old and what I had marijuana I did not hurt and had more energy but I stop when I had kids because it is illegal so I hurt every day please Help me where I can play with my kids every day I am not asking for the world I am Asking to not to hurt so bad so I can play with me kids

  9. Tom Williams

    I wish that Mountain Express would interview Sheriff Van Duncan. I would like to hear in detail what facts the Sheriff has to back up his claim that recent interview. “A lot of people think it’s no more harmful than alcohol,” Duncan said. “I would argue that marijuana is one of the most destructive drugs out there.” Please allow him the time and space to support this claim. Could the seizure of property laws be clouding his views?Are the laws against cannabis, a money maker for his department, something he would hate to loose? Are there statistics to point out that alcohol is less destructive than marijuana. If an average citizen made these claims it would be one thing but for an elected official it is entirely different.

    • mhunt

      I agree Tom. Had I known this was going to be such a hot topic, I would have like to sit down with Sheriff Duncan in person too. Perhaps this is a good avenue for a follow-up.

      You can read his entire quote to the Citizen-Times in their article (follow the link above). Or an extended except here:

      “A lot of people think it’s no more harmful than alcohol,” he said. “I completely disagree with that. I would argue that marijuana is one of the most destructive drugs out there, especially when it comes to adolescent-age children.

      “In an adolescent brain that’s not fully formed, it does damage to that brain that you don’t see in a fully formed adult brain. I’ve seen case after case after case where young people are using that as a crutch to deal with normal adolescent stress. They become extremely dependent on it.” (via Asheville Citizen-Times)

      • Jason

        VAN is an elected politician who runs a government agency . ALL government is self serving and ever growing…. He spews this ignorant rhetoric because he has too!

      • Dionysis

        Sheriff Duncan is probably sincere in his views, and he may have a personal anecdote or two that he believes supports his view. However, objective, empirical science shows him to be completely wrong.

        In addition, studies repeatedly show marijuana is far less harmful to both the user and the community than either alcohol or tobacco.

        Does the flow of revenue from this ridiculous and failed ‘war on drugs’ enter into his view? Who knows, but facts, being pesky things, completely and fully refute these stereotypes. He and many others are free to hold their own views, whether based in fact or not, but to continue to incarcerate people for no factually legitimate reason is antithetical to this supposed ‘free’ society.

        Finally, it is a mystery why the supposedly ‘progressive’ city of Asheville has not emulated other, real progressive cities across the country that place personal possession of pot among the lowest priority for their police. Nothing is stopping Asheville from doing the same, other than lack of will.

        • Jason

          I don’t believe someone of his stature would be that ignorant. That’s not to say these are not his personal views, but someone in his position; only get’s to be in that position by realizing their views are very limited and to entail the expertise and scientific evidence that is.

          • Dionysis

            I’m not sure I follow you, Jason. Are you saying you do not believe Sheriff Duncan actually believes what he expressed, or that he’s aware of the studies on this matter but still expresses views that do not reflect those studies and facts? He is Sheriff because he has a demonstrated background in law enforcement, not organic chemistry.

            I have no idea exactly what Sheriff Duncan believes, but have to accept his own words. With regard to the notion of ignorance, the world is full of people that are in responsible positions that are completely ignorant about a lot of things. We all see it on a regular basis. If none of us were ignorant about some things, there’d be nothing to learn.

          • Jason

            Let’s go back to Government; namely a government agency in this instance being completely self serving. Be aware that the funding to the Buncombe county Drug Task force would be in severe jeopardy if and when Marijuana becomes legal…. This is also another reality to consider as to why most Police Chiefs, Sheriffs, and other Directors of law enforcement fight tooth and nail to keep it illegal. The have to make every part of their agencies relevant and over funded.

        • Jason

          I do not believe Sheriff Duncan actually believes what he expressed and that he’s aware of the studies on this matter but still expresses views that do not reflect those studies and facts… I believe he’s expressed what he has, to appeal to his constituency; Most of which (70%-90%) are the typical Southern “regressives”. My father’s been in politics his whole life. He just got reelected as a state Senator. He absolutely believes Marijuana should be legalized for recreational use and appropriately TAXED (as most, if not all educated politicians do), but campaigned against it, due to his constituency (white Catholics ). Now that he’s been elected; he’d be will to co-sponsor a bill to legalize it for recreational use. He sees this coming to fruition within the next few years. Luckily VAN has no say, but does carry influence with regards to Marijuana. I am hopefully; considering he stated that he believes Marijuana will be legal for recreational use eventually.

          • Dionysis

            Thanks for the response. I can’t take issue on the funding charge. I know this is endemic throughout the country. Your views are well stated and make sense. I was taken a little by the Sheriff’s comments on legalization as well. Interesting times in NC.

          • Max Hunt

            Interesting point. Politics often take precedence over personal belief. Kinda funny that’s the case though….

      • Beck

        What exactly do you think alcohol or cigarette smoke does to a child’s brain?! I saw a couple in a car one day smoking with an infant in the back seat and it made me furious. Arrest them and leave marijuana smokers alone. From what I have seen personally it’s usually parents who smoke cigarettes around children, and single/couples with no kids who smoke weed. Nobody does anything about the mothers who smoke/take legal drugs/get drunk while pregnant, so don’t pretend you people care about kids. If you did, there might be a bill to make it illegal do any of those things while pregnant or close to small children.

      • Anna Lockamy

        I believe Sherriff Duncan’s claims actually support legalization. His concern is mostly with adolescents abusing marijuana. Most drug dealers do not care what age their customers are. If it were regulated, you’d need to be of proper age to walk into a dispensary. It would be harder for kids to find it on the street. In my personal experience one of the worst side effects of buying marijuana illegally as a teenager was the crowd I got mixed up with. Legalization would decrease this ‘’crowd’’ of non-law abiding citizens who prosper off of the illegized nature of cannabis. It would be far better for kids to learn about the proper use of Cannabis from their parents. I think his outrageous claims are meant for shock and awe, to maintain the kind of decades old unsubstantiated attitude towards marijuana that’s kept us in the dark while his real reasons for wanting to keep marijuana illegal are much more shady.

  10. Jason

    CALL your STATE reps! I did! I even tried to post their Email addresses on this string of comments, but the Mountain Express refused to post it….Maybe they’ll refuse to post this too

  11. Jason

    Call Our Reps!
    Representative Susan C. Fisher (919)-715-2013
    Senator Terry Van Duyn (919) 715-3001
    Representative John Age 919-733-5746
    Representative Brian Turner 919-715-3012
    Senator Tom Apodaca (919) 733-5745

  12. March 19th 2015, Legislative Cannabis Education seminar in Legislative auditorium, 16 West Jones St. Raleigh. Call your reps!! Tell them to attend. Real doctors, patients including myself, and Attorney Ben Scales who wrote Bill will be speaking. And thank you….

  13. I don’t see why if states are legalized it for recreational including DC , then why all don’t. You do realize the money generated that can be use by the state without it going into your own crooked pockets. Not to mention that over 80% of US smoke it. There has been no trouble with people working under the influence of it by Colorado or Washington state. I myself have smoke 20+ years and have walked steel beams in cowboy boots as well as handle cranes having put me many stories in air just unhook another. Or even operate heavy equipment and 30 yrs later( knock on wood) I have yet have accident or incident due to effect of smoking it. Better than being on hard drugs or medications to which many people are on today! It’s not a gateway drug either. Use not be legal until government figure out good it could be and didn’t want people know so they criminal the stuff.

  14. Last should read, use to be legal until government seen good in it and didn’t want people know because everyone would be smoking it. And look now at percentage!

  15. Jason

    AND… Let it be known that these bills aren’t becoming debated exclusively because we’ve all become enlightened; but rather because our nation faces a 17 trillion dollar debt.

  16. Jarrod

    I’m a highly functioning quadriplegic so I’ll continue vape Marijuana regardless of what the government says

  17. chris

    So what would be the next step in it getting passed? If there are steps in this process where are we at now and how many more are left in this process before it (if it does) gets legalized?

    • Jason

      It’s now a bill. The house needs to pass it, then it goes to the senate, the senate needs to pass it, then ut goes to the governor. He can either pass or veto. All three isles are republican…. Let’s hold them to their “small government” ” less regulation” “government shouldnt tell me what I can and can’t do” rhetoric!

      • Max Hunt

        Technically, it has to pass through the House Committee, which researches the various aspects of the proposed bill and offers recommendations and opinions on whether it’s passable. They may also suggest edits in wording, statutes, etc. But Jason is correct: the next voting step will be passing it in the House, then Senate, then Gov.

        You can learn more about the process by following the link “More on the NC General Assembly Law-Making Process” at the bottom of the article.

  18. Dionysis

    As a coda to this thread, I just found out that ten different sheriff’s associations from three different states (NC not one of them) have filed suit against the state of Colorado over their legalization. It seems the only legal basis was the disparity between federal and state laws. That’s it. The fact that Colorado has seen an increase in revenue, a reduction in crime AND a reduction in drug use since the law went into effect was ignored. Drilling down further, it seems the actual reason for their legal challenge was the potential loss of revenue from drug-related confiscations. They know which way the wind is blowing and don’t like it.

    I think this fact adds legitimacy to Jason’s point about Sheriff Duncan’s claims.

  19. Max Hunt

    This has been a great discussion thread! Thank you all for your opinions, data, and personal perspectives. I’m glad to see so many community members engaged in discussion on a hot topic. Keep it up!

  20. Karl Allen

    Yes, My Wife and I been study cannabis medicine cure over
    thousand medicine for human more than 11 years also We want
    live over hundred year old Come march Legalize Cannabis
    Medical in Raleigh North Carolina this March 19 2015

  21. Free the herb!! I lost a great friend last year to alcohol and I know several people addicted to pills. When will the government pull their collective heads from out of their collective asses?! Soon I hope.

  22. David

    It’s amazing that a plant that can help save lives and our planet is the topic of debate and criminal activity, growing hemp might save the rain forests, oh wait the leaders of the wood industry will go broke the legacy of their lies and lining politicians pockets with their favorite green will allow the planet to breathe again. Go global warming that’s what the timber industry wants

  23. just ducky

    Ok, drink for hours, beat my wife and kids, throw a fit and wreck the house, get in my car pass out and kill you or your kids while drunk driving…Smoke some pot relieve pain in my back, laugh at the violent news, love my pets be content, love my family and smile, enjoy life…Please tell me that I’m going to have chromosome damage, rape the child next door, die of overdose pump my stomach, or ruin my liver ,and die, get addicted, beat my family, that is baloney… come on people your pastors and politicians and drug companies are controlling your very existence…Please support Medical Marijuana…animals and humans have been self medicating for millenniums…its all about freedom…

  24. Faye Lewark Daniels

    I’m 72, don’t care about smoking pot, but if others wish to that’s their choice; after all, I enjoy a glass of wine. I have taken Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods hemp oil every day for good health and want the opportunity to take cannabis oil high in CBD for optimal health. It took an inner ear virus three years ago leaving me with dizziness and balance issues to start my researching. I am a believer and supporter; just do your own researching. I have told all my doctors/specialist that if they tell me that I have cancer, I will go to the nearest state where it is legal for my treatment of choice.

  25. Bryan edge

    I am a certified pharmacy technician who sees people swallowing thousands of pills that cause more damage than they do good. More than half of my patients do not know why exactly they are taking certain medications, nor do they know what the medications are, or do..they simply take them because they are told to. I use cannabis daily and hardly ever need to take any actual medication for anything. People could benefit tremendously from the legalization of marijuana, even if only medically for the time being. I for one support to the fullest the legalization of marijuana.

  26. kelly strauss

    as I hurt everyday of my life I would like to try it for my severe pain I am so sick of pain pills they dont really work.

  27. Stephen

    I have chronic headaches from a motorcycle accident from years ago.I take 2 types strong pain meds with very bad side effects.they cost 1300.00 per month.Mary j helps a lot more effective no side effects!!!!!!!

  28. Daniel

    I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 2 at the age of 9 I took 4 different kinds of meds for 8 years then stared smoking pot, pot has aloud me to come off all of my meds. It’s need 3 years since Ive taken a single pill for my disorder and haven’t had a single episode (manic or depressive ). Not to mention now I don’t have to deal with all the awful side effects of the pills

  29. Margarette

    HIGH ! I am 59. I have had Type 2 Diabetes for 4 years . All I have to say is , To all those People with the INK Pens in their hands, JUST Sign & ” LEGALIZE IT Already” . I`ve been blazing since the age of 16 . Stop taking my meds for the diabetes almost 2 years ago because they were just not working. I am miserable because of nerve pain. No cure as of yet. I Blaze every day any time I want and will continue to do so . ‘YES TO THE NORMAL’ People. We are all voting everyday for you to get our votes out. Puff Away! Have a Purple Haze Life to You all here who is Normal.

  30. Chuck

    Buncombe County Sheriff thinks marijuana is “one of the most destructive drugs”…… ????????????????
    Try smoking pot for 30 years vs drinking alcohol for 30 years. Marijuana is one of the LEAST destructive!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    How can a sheriff not know that?
    Marijuana being illegal is silly and ridiculous.

  31. Christy

    I completely AGREE with legalization of marijuana. I am bipolar with P.T.S.D, I take risks regularly buying marijuana just for the purpose of being comfortable and being able to function without “racing thoughts”. I also suffer with anger issues due to many years of abuse. Marijuana definitely is a reprieve for myself and other’s with similar conditions. It’s also MUCH safer than the pills being prescribed, which cause bodily and mental deterioration over time, some even habit forming .

  32. Why Marijuana Should be illegal?

    bipolar disorder type 2 at the age of 9 I took 4 different kinds of meds for 8 years then stared smoking pot, pot has aloud me to come off all of my meds. It’s need 3 years since Ive taken a single pill for my disorder and haven’t had a single episode (manic or depressive ). Not to mention now I don’t have to deal with all the awful side effects of the pills
    Why Marijuana Should be illegal?

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