By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
June 25, 2021
Despite the fact that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved cannabis for the treatment of any disease or condition, North Carolina lawmakers are considering legalizing marijuana for medicinal use.
Sponsors of the N.C. Compassionate Care Act (SB 711) presented the 13-page measure to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, saying that it would allow North Carolinians with debilitating medical conditions to get a written certification from their doctors to use pot. Those conditions would include cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and any other comparable illness. And users could ingest the pot in an edible, smoke it, vape it or use it in the form of a tincture under the tongue.
The bill would allow 10 “seed-to-sale” suppliers to operate four dispensaries each and would ensure that they are located in both rural and urban areas. Also, according to the bill, the state’s Department of Health and Human Services would become home to a new medical advisory board and a commission on marijuana production, each tasked with handling different parts of the process. The bill further spells out how the marijuana must be packaged and what dispensaries can look like.
Senators Bill Rabon and Sen. Michael Lee, both Republicans, are pushing the legislation. Sen. Rabon described the proposed legislation as very tightly written, and Sen. Michael Lee, assured fellow lawmakers the goal was to accommodate only medical, not recreational use.
But the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, told the committee that would be easier said than done.
“A 2017 study of the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry found that rates of marijuana use and addiction increased significantly more in the states that passed medical marijuana laws as compared to states that have not. Examining the data from 1992 to 2013, researchers concluded medical marijuana laws likely contributed to an increased prevalence of marijuana and marijuana-addicted users,” he said.
“Research is conclusive that marijuana is addictive and harmful to the brain, especially when used by adolescents,” he added. “None of us wants patients to be denied treatment that can help them, but studies like the one I sited earlier underscore the fact that ‘medical’ and ‘recreational’ legalization are blurred lines. Smoked marijuana is not medicine. It’s never been proven safe or effective as other FDA approved medications have.”
Jere Royall, counsel for the N.C. Family Policy Council, shared similar concerns, reminding legislators that marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I controlled substance by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
“The DEA has twice denied petitions to reschedule marijuana because it does not meet the criteria for currently accepted medical use and treatment in the United States. There is a lack of accepted safety for its use under medical supervision and it has high potential for abuse,” he said. “Today’s marijuana is highly potent, containing up to 65 percent THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis. And it causes a myriad of negative physical, psychological and social effects.”
Nonetheless, the committee heard many endorsements of the psychoactive drug, as at least five veterans and a Duke physician spoke in favor of the bill.
Josh Biddix, a retired law enforcement officer, combat veteran, and head of Broad River Hemp in Shelby, NC, said marijuana had helped him manage his pain without the extreme side effects he felt when he was taking nearly two dozen medications prescribed by Veterans Affairs doctors.
“I personally have seen tremendous relief with cannabis as an alternative natural supplement,” he said.
Gary Hess, the first veteran to get a legal dose of marijuana in Louisiana, which approved its medical use two years ago, shared his similar story, saying that his condition had left him on the verge of suicide.
“If I had continued to rely on the V.A. and Western medicine, I wouldn’t be alive today,” said Hess, who is founder and executive director of the Veterans Alliance for Holistic Alternatives.
After the hearing on the measure, however, Rev. Creech said he was concerned about veterans being able to have a healthy readjustment to civilian life. Still, there are direct scientific associations between high-frequency marijuana use and the development of serious mental issues such as psychosis, depression, anxiety, addiction, and suicidal thoughts.
“Reputable studies show that over time there can be a serious negative outcome for veterans who choose to use marijuana to cope with their struggles,” said Creech. “So, there is compelling evidence to contradict the claims of those who testified at the hearing.”
He added that a study published by the Journal of Psychiatric Research found pot-dependent Iraq/Afghanistan era veterans have an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and attempted suicide.
“Outside of the stories some people tell to make marijuana look appealing, and some have financial interest in the legalization of marijuana, the science says there is little evidence marijuana helps treat symptoms of PTSD,” said Rev. Creech “Lawmakers need to see through the haze. They must choose what the science is telling us in this case, and not anecdotal evidence.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee did not take a vote on the bill, but will take it up again at a later date. Before it could be entertained by the Senate, the measure would have to receive a favorable recommendation from four different committees.
Please contact your N.C. State Senator immediately and ask him/her to VOTE NO on SB 711 – N.C. Compassionate Care Act. THIS IS ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT IF YOUR STATE SENATOR IS A REPUBLICAN.
“It deeply concerns me certain Republicans are leading this initiative. At this point, I am not convinced most Republicans believe this is the right direction for North Carolina or the NC GOP. But I am concerned Republican legislators could be deceived by emotional arguments which have little basis in fact. It’s a smokescreen, and they need to hear from fellow Republicans and especially conservative evangelicals. Please tell them to oppose these efforts to legislate something as medicine, which isn’t – marijuana!” said Rev. Creech. “Every Democrat will vote for the bill, and a minority of Republicans voting with them might be enough to get the measure over the top.”
If you don’t know who represents you in the N.C. Senate, click on this link to find out: https://www.ncleg.gov/FindYourLegislators