By Luanne Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
RALEIGH — The nation’s capital approved the sale of medicinal marijuana this week even as western states that took the same step more than a decade ago are struggling to deal with the fallout. Meanwhile, legislation to bring medical pot to North Carolina may be gaining strength.
“As lawmakers head back to session in May, we need to make sure they understand that legalizing this dangerous narcotic and calling it medicine is, to say the least, not in the best interest of our citizens’ health and safety,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “We can’t even pretend that we are trying to keep children from using drugs if we open the door to legalized pot.”
A USA Today article this week reports that some 100,000 people in Colorado can now legally buy and use marijuana with another 1,000 applying for permission every workday. More than 250 dispensaries have opened in Denver with an additional 100 operating in Boulder.
Both cities have recently passed zoning ordinances and fee schedules to try to curtail the number of dispensaries as the state Senate there eyes further regulations and fees. The situation is similar in California where Los Angeles officials are struggling to reduce the number of outlets from 545 to about 70 even as pot pushers set their sights on full legalization come November.
“This is just another example of what we don’t want in North Carolina,” said the Rev. Creech. “Unfortunately, the same folks who believe that this illicit drug is medicine also buy into the myth that it can be easily monitored and regulated when experience shows just the opposite.”
Even some folks representing Colorado’s marijuana industry admit it is out of control.
Bob Hagedorn, public affairs officer for the Colorado Wellness Association, told USA Today that his visits to some 80 pot dispensaries showed that 10 percent were “very serious about the wellness side of things,” with 50 percent interested only in “moving product” and the rest somewhere in between.
Dispensaries are popping up like weeds to meet the growing demand, especially since the Obama administration announced that federal prosecutors will take a hands-off approach in states that OK medical use. The announcement last year has emboldened marijuana users and sellers alike as stores have increased advertising and expanded their products to include everything from pot-laced candy and rice cakes to frozen pizzas.
Similar to the bill introduced by Rep. Earl Jones (D-Guilford) in North Carolina, Colorado’s law allows patients with any “debilitating medical condition” from “severe pain” or “severe muscle spasms” to cancer to obtain a card allowing them to use, produce or transport the drug. According to the USA Today article, Colorado doctors, many who work onsite at dispensaries, charge roughly $150 for appointments that typically consist of a five- to 10-minute conversation before issuing a recommendation that applicants can then mail to the state health department, along with a $90 fee, to request a card. North Carolina’s bill would require a card fee of about $10 and would allow cardholders to designate up to two caregivers to grow and handle their marijuana for them.
While the Colorado law allows patients to possess up to two ounces of pot or six plants for personal use, Jones’ bill would allow users to have 24 ounces and a 100-square-foot patch.
Supporters of HB 1380 rallied in Guilford County earlier this month. In March, Rep. Nick Mackey (D-Mecklenburg) a co-sponsor of the bill promoted it during a meeting at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
The bill is currently in the Health Committee of the N.C. House. While sponsors don’t expect it to pass in the short session, they predict it will have a good chance next year.