Medical Marijuana bill passes NC Senate; some cannabis supporters against bill

If passed, medical marijuana would bring millions of dollars in revenue to the state.
North Carolina passes bill legalizing medical marijuana
North Carolina passes bill legalizing medical marijuana
Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 9:44 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Medical marijuana is one step closer to being legal in the state of North Carolina.

The state senate passed the North Carolina Compassionate Care Act, dubbed the medical marijuana bill, that would allow people dealing with certain illnesses to take advantage of potential healing properties in cannabis products.

If passed, medical marijuana would bring millions of dollars in revenue to the state.

Meanwhile, some small business owners believe this bill cuts them out and they could potentially lose money from some of the products already being sold across the state.

“Know that there’s demand here in North Carolina for this bill and this use, there’s a lot of sick people would benefit from it,” State Senator Natasha Marcus, who represents Mecklenburg County in NC’s District 41 and is a co-sponsor of the bill, said.

Some studies show medical marijuana can help people dealing with pain, nausea and other medical conditions.

“One thing that’s being left out of this medical bill and that’s what we get the most customers for, is chronic pain and next to that would be anxiety, PTSD, the chronic pain is the number reason most people are looking for these products,” Michael Sims, co-owner of Crowntown Cannabis, said.

Along with medical benefits, it’s a potential state-approved industry that could bring in $15 million in fiscal year 2024-25, and $44 million by fiscal year 2027-28.

“I think those numbers are more in line with what would be a recreational program and not a medical program, ultimately right now, we’re bringing in that amount of money, if not more already in this industry,” Sims said.

The main sources of revenue would come from supplier licensure fees, monthly fees from businesses, taxes on sales, and a patient and caregiver fee no higher than $50 for the medical marijuana card.

“There is economic benefit coming from it, but for me anyway was not my main reason to support the bill, it was more a demand from residents of North Carolina, we had veterans come to Raleigh and talk about that it helps with PTSD and they don’t want to be made criminals to have to go to a different state to get this,” Marcus said.

Sims is against the current bill.

“It’ll ultimately, negatively affect our business, we already have many of these products that they’re wanting to put into the medical program, and it’ll ultimately remove the products we have on our shelves and put it into a small amount of people’s hands,” he said.

Senator Marcus said the bill is not perfect.

“We have heard from local business owners, local farmers, a lot of Black farmers specifically who feel like they’ve been cut out of this bill and the ability to benefit from it,” she said. “All I can say is the Republiccan sponsor of this bill has heard all of that and has not been willing to change his approach.”

As the current bill is written, once the Medical Cannabis Production Commission is established, it will approve only 10 licenses for medical marijuana suppliers, and each cannot own and operate more than eight medical cannabis centers.

“Ultimately it leaves it open for multi-state operators and people from outside the state of North Carolina to benefit the most,” Sims said.

Despite medical marijuana bill not being perfect, some lawmakers felt they had no other choice.

“The reason so many of us are supporting the bill anyway is that this is the only way medical marijuana would be able to access it under a very conservative legislature,” Marcus said.

Sims also feels the fees and taxes would drive up prices for those who need it the most.

“The people who need this product the most need it to be the most affordable and through this current program with the taxation and regulation, it will make the products much more expensive and much harder to obtain,” Sims said. “I think some regulations should come, but I would much rather the industry as it is right now than adopt this medical program and get it wrong for the years coming.”

This bill is not a done deal, it potentially faces challenges in the state house which held similar bills in the past.

The house speaker signaled there are new members and a change in opinions that could lead to this bill passing and being signed into law.

Related: North Carolina Senate passes bill on medical marijuana