By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
August 27, 2021
“Marijuana’s recognition as a medicine should not be determined by popular demand,” the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, warned North Carolina senators on the Healthcare Committee Thursday minutes before they advanced Senate Bill 711 to Rules and Operations. The legislation is the latest of several attempts to legalize pot for medicinal purposes.
Dubbed the “NC Compassionate Care Act,” the bill has bipartisan support and has already cleared four committees. It would create a Medical Cannabis Production Commission which would award licenses to 10 seed-to-sale producers, each of whom could operate up to four dispensaries where patients with any one of a number of diagnoses ranging from cancer to post-traumatic stress disorder could buy marijuana as long as they have a doctor’s certificate. Patients and caregivers would pay $50 for their ID cards, and producers would turn over 10 percent of their profits to the state.
Healthcare Committee members Ralph Hise (R-Madison), Jim Burgin (R-Harnett) and Joyce Krawiec (R-Davie) spoke against the measure.
Hise told colleagues that he did not want to be part of the state taking its first steps toward full legalization of pot, which is where he said the bill would lead.
“This is not about patients and receiving treatment. This is about placing North Carolina on a path that will make it more acceptable to legalize marijuana,” Hise said, suggesting that once the measure is passed, the list of qualifying illnesses would be broadened to the point that everyone would qualify.
He questioned the wisdom of the state embracing marijuana after years of trying to eradicate tobacco use, when both are harmful carcinogens, and he pointed out the double standard of endorsing the use of a substance that doesn’t have FDA approval while at the same time touting the need for the FDA to approve the Covid vaccines.
“Where are the FDA recommendations on medical marijuana? What is the one thing they say it treats or cures?” Hise asked.
Burgin said three doctors from East Carolina Anesthesia Associates had sought him out to share their concerns about the dangers of smoked marijuana.
“Every report I read said that young people and children are affected cognitively by being around marijuana and its smoke,” Burgin said, urging fellow lawmakers to rethink the measure and get more input from the attorney general, the State Bureau of Investigation, the departments of insurance, agriculture, labor and public safety as well as the Sheriffs’ Association.
He predicted that if the bill is passed, marijuana will be legalized for recreational use in North Carolina within two years.
Krawiec questioned bill sponsors Michael Lee (R-New Hanover) and Paul Lowe (D-Forsyth) about the cost for licenses and their transferability, citing concerns that licensees could pay their $50,000 fee and then sell their license for millions of dollars. She also asked if they were aware that a residency requirement similar to the one in the bill had been the subject of a lawsuit in Missouri.
Lee said he thinks the bill would pass Constitutional muster and that he is open to adding more language limiting transferability.
The Rev. Creech focused his comments on a report from Yale School of Medicine which says evidence supporting marijuana’s efficacy falls short of FDA standards.
Although he was not given enough time to delve into the matter in the meeting (outside speakers were allotted just one minute each), Creech later expounded on the dangers of “medicine by vote,” citing the case of Laetrile, a substance made from apricot and peach pits and promoted as a cancer cure in the 1970s but never approved by the FDA.
“Some 20 U.S. states voted to approve its use, but to no real therapeutic avail, and several people died of cyanide poisoning as a result,” he said, adding that the legalization of Laetrile gave people false hope and created a distraction from pursuing scientifically researched drugs to treat cancer.
“Testimonials are not science,” Creech said. “We’ve made this mistake in the past. It would be best if you didn’t repeat it.”
Creech was not the only guest speaker warning the committee about the bill’s dangers. Attorney and former N.C. House Speaker Paul Stam told lawmakers the bill’s $50,000 licensure fee would constitute a barrier to entry and ultimately create a monopoly in violation of the Constitution. He also provided lawmakers with an Aug. 10 Politico article describing cannabis cultivation as one of the most energy-intensive crops in the nation and one that produces climate-threatening carbon emissions. Also among the evidence Stam shared was a July 11 article posted on Health News about links between pot smoking and “scromiting,” the slang term for cannabinoid hyperemesis, which causes frequent users of the drug to have bouts of simultaneous screaming and vomiting. The condition is becoming more frequent in states such as Colorado, where marijuana use has increased in the wake of legalization.