By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
January 31, 2013
RALEIGH — Less than a week into their 2013 Session, Tar Heel lawmakers are already considering legalizing medical marijuana, reversing the ban on Internet sweepstakes and perhaps even privatizing liquor sales — legislation that the Christian Action League must prepare to battle.
“We anticipated these issues would arise this session, and here we catch wind of them the very first week,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, the CAL’s executive director. On Tuesday he had addressed the Christian Life and Public Affairs Committee of the Baptist State Convention on these very themes and had mentioned them again Wednesday in a speech to the BSC’s General Board.
Before the end of that day, the News and Observer was reporting that Rep. Kelly Alexander (D-Mecklenburg) would be filing a marijuana bill and that the sweepstakes industry was seeking a sponsor for a law to freeze the 2010 ban on the games and let gambling parlors stay in business while the state established new regulations. Further, Americans For Prosperity, an influential lobbying organization credited for helping elect the governor and more than a dozen legislators, announced Tuesday that it would work for “passage of legislation to get the state of North Carolina out of the liquor business.”
A passionate opponent of the common and continuing threat of any proposal to privatize the sale of spirits, Dr. Creech emphasized that such a move would increase outlet density, hours of sale, alcohol advertising and promotion, and ultimately consumption levels while undermining what has been a consistent revenue source.
“What many longtime lawmakers have come to understand and what we must communicate to newcomers to the General Assembly is that the controls in our current system strike a critical balance — keeping dangerous consumption levels down and revenues up for state and local coffers, entities that must deal with the fallout of alcohol use and abuse,” he said.
The latest statistics available show North Carolina ranks 49th nationally in per capita consumption levels of spirits and fifth in the amount of revenue garnered from the sale of spirits.
“We must hold lawmakers accountable to this high standard when any new privatization plan is brought to the table,” he said. “While some folks like to demand that the state ‘get out of the liquor business,’ the truth is that the state is in the business of control, and that responsibility can’t be handed over to the free market without grave consequences.”
Neither, he said, should lawmakers entertain the idea of legalizing so-called “medical marijuana,” despite a recent Public Policy Polling survey that showed some 58 percent of North Carolinians support physicians’ having the right to prescribe the controversial psychoactive drug. A third of respondents opposed the idea and the rest were undecided. Marijuana supporters are set to rally at the Legislature Feb. 12.
“No doubt, on that day we will hear some impassioned pleas for folks to be able to smoke pot legally to help deal with a range of medical conditions,” said the Rev. Creech. “But the fact is, no reliable studies have shown that marijuana is a safe and effective drug. It is still a Schedule I substance and has not won any kind of FDA approval, not just because of the 400 or so chemical compounds that vary from plant to plant, but also because it has adverse health effects, not the least of which are impaired memory and poor judgment and decision making.”
To see the massive ill-effects of pretending that marijuana is medicine, he said lawmakers need look no further than California where it was legalized in 1996 and has led to a huge, for-profit marijuana industry that supplies many perfectly healthy people with the drug, both inside and outside of the state.
“Getting it legalized as ‘medicine’ is the first step in marijuana proponents’ push toward full legalization of the addictive drug, in a nation where already some 4.5 million people meet the clinical criteria for abuse or dependence,” said Dr. Creech. “This is really the last thing we need in North Carolina.”
According to a post on the North Carolina Cannabis Patients Network Web site by the group’s director, Perry Parks, Rep. Alexander was expected to introduce “an act to enact the Medical Cannabis Act” on Wednesday. However, the General Assembly Web site did not reflect any such bill having yet been filed.
Alexander co-sponsored medical marijuana legislation in 2009 and again in 2011 in addition to a separate bill that would have reduced penalties for marijuana possession. Those bills never made it out of committee.
“It’s wishful thinking to believe that these bills will continue to be suppressed, especially since the state’s Democratic Party has officially embraced medical marijuana as part of its platform,” said Dr. Creech. “We must be ready to battle this misguided attempt to normalize illegal drug use.”
Finally, he said the CAL will need help to continue the fight against video sweepstakes. Although the state’s Supreme Court upheld the ban on the games in December, the gambling industry and sweepstakes software developers are looking for lawmakers to sign on to a bill that would give Internet cafes a three-year reprieve while new rules and taxes would be put in place to regulate the industry.
“Regulating sweepstakes is truly a pipe dream,” said Dr. Creech. “This industry has proven time and again that they will do anything and everything to circumvent the law. Legislators should resist any temptation to set them up as a valid revenue stream for the state. Allowing them to remain open would be victimizing even more citizens who would fall prey to these extremely addicting games.”
Rep. Alexander sponsored the Video Gaming Entertainment Act in 2010, a bill that would have allowed operators to have up to 500 machines throughout the state, with as many as 10 at one location so long as they paid annual fees for each machine and handed over a small percentage of their profits to the state. He also argued against the legislation that tightened the ban that same year.
Dr. Creech urged Christians across the state to contact their lawmakers immediately and ask them not to support any of these three efforts.
“Our legislators have hit the ground running and when these bills are filed, they can move quickly through committees, so the time to act is now to start letting your lawmaker know that you don’t want him or her to support legalization of medical marijuana, video sweepstakes or privatization of liquor sales,” he said. “Email your lawmaker today.”
Take Christian Action Now: Contact your lawmakers in both the House and the Senate and ask him/her to reject any legislation for the legalization of medicinal marijuana, the reversing of the ban on video sweepstakes, or the privatization of the sale of spirits.
To send your lawmakers an pre-written email click here