Getting into the Weed(s): NC House Holds Hearing on Compassionate Care Act

The North Carolina House is ready to talk about marijuana and did just that today. Senate Bill 3 – also known as the Compassionate Care Act – appeared on the House’s agenda last week. Until then, there had been no movement (or even murmurs) from the House on the bill’s prospects, despite high hopes after the Senate’s 36-10 vote early this year.

If you’re experiencing déjà vu that’s because we’ve been here before. In late 2022, the Senate passed a prior version of the bill and sent it on to the House, where it never got a hearing or a vote and died in committee. This time, though, the House is ready to at least talk about medical marijuana. Last week, Rep. Larry Potts (R), the chair of the House Health Committee, stated that the committee would hold a hearing in which members and the public would be given “limited time” to talk about the bill on Tuesday, May 30, 2023.

The committee met earlier today, and heard from both lawmakers and the public, including personal testimony from Sen. Bill Rabon (R), a long-time proponent and co-sponsor of the bill. Sen. Rabon is a cancer survivor who told the committee that he was advised by his doctor to use marijuana during his intensive chemotherapy treatment. He shared that his use of marijuana to ease the symptoms of chemo is the “only reason [he’s] alive today” and stated that tens of thousands of people in North Carolina with serious illnesses stand to benefit, just as he did, from the medicinal properties of marijuana.

The bill contains a very specific and limited list of qualifying medical conditions, which include cancer, epilepsy, and HIV/AIDS, among others. In response to a question from a committee member today, Sen. Rabon indicated he would be open to reassessing the list of qualifying conditions included in the bill.

At the end of today’s hearing, Rep. Potts stated he expects the committee to “be discussing this again” in a future meeting. This momentum may bode well for the bill’s prospects in the House, where N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore said he believed it had “decent prospects of passage” in 2023 as some House members’ “attitudes have changed.” Time will tell if the House is just blowing smoke, or if the bill truly has a chance to (puff puff) pass this year. And we will, of course, keep you up to date on the bill’s progress.

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