By Nanci Bompey | Published in Citizen Times
RALEIGH — A local state lawmaker introduced a bill this week that would make it legal to grow and use marijuana for medical purposes.
Rep. Patsy Keever, D-Buncombe, is one of three primary sponsors of the North Carolina Medical Cannabis Act filed on Thursday.
The legislation would allow patients with debilitating medical conditions to use marijuana to alleviate their symptoms. It would set up a system for operating medical cannabis centers and growing marijuana for medical use.
Keever said marijuana has proved to be a good, affordable pain reliever for people who suffer from chronic illnesses or are undergoing cancer treatments. She said the state could also make money from growing it.
“We’re not saying that we want everyone smoking weed,” Keever said. “We want people to be alleviated from their pain.”
Medical use and cultivation of marijuana is legal in 15 states and the District of Columbia, but no Southern states have legalized the drug for medical use.
Similar medical marijuana bills introduced in North Carolina have gained little traction. Previous legislation introduced in past sessions never made it to the floor.
A recent vote by the state House to ban synthetic marijuana gives a good indication of how the bill will do, said Charles Thomas, a former state lawmaker and current chief of staff for Speaker of the House Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg.
“I would predict that the members won’t have a tremendous amount of interest in the bill,” he said. “A lot of folks have bigger fish to fry.”
Although North Carolina is a “purple” state, there is still a strong conservative element, said Gibbs Knotts, political science professor at Western Carolina University.
The Republican-controlled General Assembly is also focused on budget issues right now, he said. He said couching the bill in terms of revenue generation could help the legislation move forward, but it is unlikely.
“Although it (North Carolina) has changed and become less traditional over time, with the political culture in this state, it would surprise me if a bill on medical marijuana got momentum here,” Knotts said.
As for Keever’s decision to co-sponsor the bill, Knotts said it likely wouldn’t hurt her chances for re-election in the state House. But he said it could be detrimental if she chooses to run for U.S. Congress or governor.
“It would be tough to run for a statewide office having introduced some policy like that,” he said. “I can see the commercials now.”