A bipartisan bill has cleared the first North Caroline Senate committee hearing, reported the Winston-Salem Journal. The Senate Bill 711 (SB711) titled NC Compassionate Care Act seeks to legalize medical marijuana for North Carolinians.

The 65-minute committee meeting and 45-minute presentation on the bill have shed some hope on the state’s 12-year fight to have legalized medical marijuana. The vote in favor of the Senate bill, which was sponsored by Republicans and Democrats alike, garnered a unanimous vote. The primary sponsors are Senators Paul Lowe, Michael Lee, and Bill Rabon.

Senate Approves Marijuana Bill in First Committee Meeting

It is important to note that this is only the first meeting regarding the matter and subsequent meetings will be conducted after suggested changes have been implemented on SB711. The bill still needs to successfully go through the Finance, Health Care and Rules and Operations committees before a Senate floor vote.

The sponsors and other senators recognize that SB711 is “the most conservative and restrictive medical marijuana bill in the country,” as described by Senator Wally Nickel. He continued, “The bill is narrowly tailored to offer medical marijuana to those with legitimate medical needs.”

Senator Natasha Marcus said that this bill has been long overdue. While Marcus sees it as restrictive, it is a great compromise especially as it is not possible for advocates to get everything they want in a Republican-dominated legislature.

According to the bill itself, the main reason for its proposal to legalize medical marijuana is that “modern medical research has found that cannabis and cannabinoid compounds are effective at alleviating pain, nausea and other symptoms associated with several debilitating medical conditions.”

“In enacting this article, North Carolina now takes similar action to preserve and enhance the health and welfare of its citizens,” it further says.

Rabon, a Republican senator and cancer survivor, is confident that the bill would not allow the legalization of recreational marijuana. In fact, he reportedly intentionally wrote it to be restrictive to prevent it from becoming a gateway to recreational marijuana.

In a report by News and Observer, Rabon was quoted saying that he has been personally affected by this issue, especially during his fight against cancer. He firmly believes that the topic of medical marijuana should be discussed as it offers compassionate care for patients.

Co-primary sponsor Lee suggested that the bill can be used as a tool to educate the public about the use of marijuana especially among teens and young adults.

Lee said, “Recreational marijuana use is not something we want in our state, but that should not keep us from doing the right thing” for patients suffering from chronic and debilitating medical conditions and symptoms.

NC Approves Marijuana Bill in First Committee Meeting

Meanwhile, Lowe explained, “SB711 says anyone who has a debilitating medical condition can receive a registry ID card or who is designated caregiver. The goal of the bill is to treat chronic pain, and relying less on opioids.”

He also added that medical marijuana can help improve the quality of life of patients, and that it can help address specific needs of particular people.

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