A senate bill looking to legalize medical marijuana in North Carolina has received the support of U.S. Marine Corps Retired Staff Sergeant George J. Papastrat, reported Fox 8. Papastrat has been on opioid medications for years and is looking for an effective alternative to the addictive substance.

The bill officially called the Compassionate Care Act or Senate Bill 711, is still in committee. It was last processed on August 26 and is currently listed with the status “Re-ref Com On Rules and Operations of the Senate.”

Sponsored by Senators Bill Rabon, Paul Lowe, and Michael Lee, SB 711 seeks to bring North Carolina into the list of 37 states with medical marijuana programs.

NC Medical Marijuana Bill Gains Support

Papastrat, who medically retired from the corps in 2016, supports the bill as it offers other options than opioids, which he has been taking after he got a lumbar fusion for his back problems. This procedure and his condition caused him to use opioids in order to perform everyday functions.

He said, “I was taking opioids on active duty. And then for about three or four years after the fusion, I was taking opioid pain relievers, and that was just to make it so I could stand up, sit down… daily tasks with my children.”

Papastrat has been advocating for a medical marijuana program since he moved to North Caroline from New York, where the plant can be prescribed for medicinal purposes. He was able to try marijuana for his medical condition, which showed favorable results for him.

At first, the veteran did not expect to use cannabis for this medical condition, saying, “You know, and never in 15 years in the Marine Corps, the thought really never even crossed my mind that that would necessarily be an option. Until you know, the pain got real.”

However, this experience in New York convinced him about the plant’s potential to help patients. Upon moving to North Carolina, Papastrat advocated for medical marijuana by relaying his story to legislators.

He clarified his goals, saying that his advocacy is not “about letting people run around and do drugs,” but about having a “fair shake of something other than an opioid.”

Medical Marijuana

The passage of the bill will allow and regulate medical marijuana including the time of the day it can be sold and the location of the businesses.

Some legislators think that this can be a step toward full legalization of the plant once it is passed. Lowe, who is a primary sponsor of the bill, is confident that SB 711 will be successful because two sponsors are Republicans. The North Carolina General Assembly is majorly Republican and the support of fellow party members could help.

While Lowe is optimistic about the Senate bill, some senators are having doubts. Senator Ralph Hise commented that advocates are using individuals who are suffering from debilitating medical conditions “as an opportunity to further their agenda.”

Meanwhile, Lowe acknowledges that there may be delays in passing the bill, but he assures people like Papastrat that legislators continue to fight for its passage.

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