By M.H. Cavanaugh
Christian Action League
March 26, 2015
RALEIGH – Wednesday, the House Judiciary I Committee voted down a proposal that would have legalized medical marijuana in the Tar Heel state.
HB 78 – Enact Medical Cannabis Act would have permitted the sale and possession of marijuana for medical use to patients who qualified. It would have directed the Department of Agriculture to establish a marijuana supply system regulated by rules from the N.C. Medical Care Commission. And, it would have protected persons from criminal, civil, or professional licensure penalties for authorized use of the drug as a medicine.
Eighteen people spoke in favor of the legislation, while three advocates from socially conservative Christian organizations urged lawmakers to vote against the bill. Hearing of the bill proved to be a highly charged atmosphere of emotion by proponents who said cannabis had significantly helped them as treatment for their debilitating illnesses.
Christine Bacon passionately testified in tears, “I am here because I am the one; I am the one who will hold my husband’s hand when he is weak. And I am the one who will be here when he breaks. And I am the one who is here for him today, fighting for his right to control his directives with medical marijuana.”
Perry Parks, a military veteran, who testified that he used marijuana for pain relief, was called down by the Sargent of Arms for his outbursts. After seeking to disparage the information provided by Dr. Mark Creech in an email to committee members against HB 78, Parks said with raised voice that he was a Christian too and declared it immoral to deny veterans who needed marijuana for symptoms related to their service injuries.
Scott Lewis, another marijuana supporter, told lawmakers that while they were looking at him his brain tumor was growing. “I cannot do anything about the status of my brain tumor,” he said, “but I would like to try something other than 19 pills a day to control my seizures.”
Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said the testimonials “were heart-wrenching,” but not compelling enough to legalize a controlled substance that is recognized for high abuse potential. “The prospect for problems far outweighs the prospects for good,” he said.
When Dr. Creech was recognized to speak before the Committee, Perry Parks disrupted the proceedings in protest, claiming that Dr. Creech was not signed-up on the speaker’s list. Once again, the Sargent of Arms called down Parks and insisted he be seated. Dr. Creech, however, had arrived approximately 50 minutes early for the meeting and was duly signed to speak.
In his testimony before the Committee, Dr. Creech said that he had been a pastor for twenty years before taking his current position as the League’s director. “I’ve seen sickness, terrible pain, and terminal illnesses – people suffering so badly that they would do almost anything for relief,” he said. “I genuinely care about others who are afflicted. The Christian faith is deeply concerned with these things. But the same Christ who commanded compassion also commanded that we be wise.”
Dr. Creech went on to argue that “medicine should not be done by the whims of the electorate or legislative committee.” He added the issue of medical marijuana goes far beyond sympathy. “We require, instead, that a proposed curative go through the rigorous testing of the scientific process – much research and investigation.”
He said the study of marijuana and its medicinal potential by the medical community, thus far, was not favorable to marijuana as medicine. He read statements from the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, The American Society of Addiction Medicine, the American Cancer Society, the American Ophthalmological Society, and the American Academy of Pediatrics that oppose marijuana as a safe and reliable treatment.
Dr. Creech concluded, “The concept of medicinal marijuana essentially violates every sensibility of the way people in our country believe medication should be approved and dispensed. Testimonials are not science. Emotions or even compassion, don’t trump wisdom.”
Tami Fitzgerald, head of the North Carolina Values Coalition, told committee members, “Legalizing marijuana for medical purposes is both unnecessary and a slippery slope…It could open the door for recreational use, which we do not want in this state. It’s not good for our families or our communities,” she said.
Fitzgerald went on to explain to the committee how legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes led to recreational legalization of marijuana in Colorado.
Jerry Royall, counsel for the North Carolina Family Policy Council, also spoke against HB 78. “The purpose of our laws is to protect the safety, health, and welfare of our citizens,” Royall said. “The federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 controlled substance … based on three factors: its high potential for abuse; it currently has no acceptable medical use in treatment in the United States; and there is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug, even under medical supervision.”
After Chairman Leo Daughtry (R-Johnston) allowed each of the primary sponsors of HB 78 to speak on the proposed measure, (Rep. Kelly Alexander, D-Mecklenburg, Rep. Becky Carney, D-Mecklenburg, Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, and Rep. Carla D. Cunningham, D-Mecklenburg), Alexander sought to withdraw the bill from certain defeat. But Daughtry ruled Alexander couldn’t withdraw the bill and the committee would vote.
Rep. Dean Arp (R-Union) made a motion for an unfavorable report. Arp’s motion passed on a voice vote. None of the members of the committee could be heard in voting against the measure and none challenged the chairman’s ruling, which made the vote unanimous against the bill’s passage.
An “unfavorable report” not only kills any consideration of the bill for this year, but keeps any legislation with a medical marijuana component from being taken-up in the 2015-2016 legislative biennium.
Passions were high and supporters angry after the meeting. Rep. Dean Arp was punched in the back by one of the bill’s supporters. The man who assaulted Arp was detained by Capital Police, but was later released after Arp graciously refused to press charges.
The Sargent of Arms, concerned with Dr. Creech’s safety, provided him with an escort down the hall of the Legislative Office Building.
“I genuinely don’t mean this condescendingly,” said Dr. Creech. “But some of these folks are hurting and they’re desperate. So they lash out in anger. I can’t say I know the motives of everyone for the obvious hostility against me and those who oppose medical marijuana, but again, this is not the way we do medicine. Unlike the remedies that the Food and Drug Administration requires to be approved as safe and effective, marijuana is unregulated, non-standardized, its purity is unknown and the dosages are inconsistent. We don’t smoke medicine of any kind. This is politicized medicine and that makes for bad medicine.”