A North Carolina lawmaker has spearheaded a bill that would legalize medical marijuana in the state, citing increased public support for legal weed and the inflow of tax revenue that would come with medical pot sales. State Rep. Kelly Alexander, a Democrat, has attempted such legislation three times before but said he’s more confident than ever that the bill could pass this time around. A rally in support of the bill is expected to take place next week outside the Statehouse in Raleigh, according to WSOC-TV.
“It’s as inevitable as high tide every morning,” Alexander told the Charlotte Observer. “Even people opposed to it see which way the country is moving and the citizens of the state are moving.” House Bill 78 was filed in February and faces several more rounds of approvals before it would become law. Alexander told the television station that he believes Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, as well as leaders of the state's Senate and House of Representatives, are sympathetic to the bill. Last summer, McCrory signed into law a bill that allows the use of cannabidiol, a compound found in marijuana, to be used for the treatment of seizures.
If the Legislature approves the bill and McCrory signs it, North Carolina would become the first Southeast state to legalize marijuana. Fourteen state representatives have co-sponsored the legislation, all of them Democrats. Alexander said that allowing medical marijuana to be produced and sold under strict state regulations could rake in as much as $100 million in tax revenue, although the time frame to which he was referring was unclear. Recent polling showed that some 70 percent of North Carolinians supported doctors being able to prescribe medical marijuana for certain conditions.
Despite such promises, the bill still faces opposition from across the aisle. Many in the Republican-controlled Legislature have indicated they wouldn’t support such a measure. Some said they feared that giving people access to medical marijuana could quickly develop into an increase in recreational use of the drug. "If you start playing with this ... then you start getting into other things," state Sen. Jeff Tarte, a Republican, told WSOC-TV.
Twenty-three states have legalized medical marijuana. Four states – Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington – allow recreational pot use. The District of Columbia has legalized marijuana for medicinal and recreational use. Several jurisdictions in North Carolina have passed laws decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana.