The seven cannabis-related bills introduced in 2019 were a mixed bag of the good, the bad, and the very ugly. A brief synopsis of each bill was posted as a 5 Minute Action on 11/21/19 https://tinyurl.com/TakeAction11-21-19, here’s more detail about most of the bills with 2 exceptions: S168-Expand Allowed Medical Uses/Cannabis Extract and S315-North Carolina Farm Act of 2019 were the most seriously considered cannabis-related bills during the long session, so each of these will receive a dedicated blog post. The bills are grouped according to their impact, if passed.
BILLS TO FURTHER DECRIMINALIZE CANNABIS POSSESSION
S58-Revise Marijuana Laws
– Sponsored by: Paul A. Lowe, Jr. (D-32), Valerie P. Foushee (D-23), Milton F. “Toby” Fitch, Jr. (D-4), Jay J. Chaudhuri (D-15), Natasha R. Marcus (D-41), Mujtaba A. Mohammed (D-38), Wiley Nickel (D-16), Joyce Waddell (D-40)
H766-Revise Marijuana Laws
– Filed: 4/15/19
– Sponsors: John Autry (D-100), Allison A. Dahle (D-11), Pricey Harrison (D-61), Zack Hawkins (D-31), John Ager (D-115), Kelly M. Alexander, Jr. (D107), Cecil Brockman (D-60), Carla D. Cunningham (D-106), Susan C. Fisher (D-114), Rosa U. Gill (D-33), Verla Insko (D-56), Carolyn G. Logan (D-101), Nasif Majeed (D-99), Graig R. Meyer (D-50), Derwin L. Montgomery (D-72), Raymond E. Smith, Jr. (D-21).
Although these bills were not listed as companion bills, the language is the same on Senate and House versions. The bills would:
Legalize possession of less than 4 ounces of cannabis
Make possession of over 3 ounces a Class 1 misdemeanor (currently ½ oz).
Make possession of over 16 ounces a Class I felony (currently 1.5 oz).
Simplify the expunction process and reduce the associated costs
The language in these bills was first introduced in the companion bills H994/S791-Revise Marijuana Laws in 2018. The great news that we can build on is that S58 had 8 sponsors/cosponsors, up from 4 for S791 and H994 had 10 sponsors/cosponsors, increased to 16 sponsors/cosponsors for H766. S58 was referred to the Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate on 2/14/19, but was not given a hearing by committee members. H766 was referred to the Committee on Rules, Calendar, and Operations of the House on 4/16/19, but was never heard in Committee.
MEDICAL CANNABIS AND CBD EXTRACT BILLS
S168-Expand Allowed Medical Uses/Cannabis Extract.
Sponsors: Floyd B. McKissick, Jr. (D-20), Ralph Hise (R-47), Paul A. Lowe, Jr. (D-32), Natasha R. Marcus (D-41), Joyce Waddell (D-40)
This bill would expand G. S. 90-94.1(b) to allow the use of cannabis extract to treat autism, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, mitochondrial disease, and intractable epilepsy. In 2017, a bill with very similar language (S452-Expand Medical Uses of CBD Oil) was introduced by Senators McKissick, Tucker, Bryant, Smith and VanDuyn. S168 was discussed multiple times in several Senate committees because it modifies existing law. We will address S168 more fully in a separate post.
H401-Enact Medical Cannabis Act
Sponsors: Kelly M. Alexander, Jr. (D107), John Autry (D-100), Becky Carney (D-102), Pricey Harrison (D-61), John Ager (D-115), Mary Belk (D-88), Allison A. Dahle (D-11), Susan C. Fisher (D-114), Zack Hawkins (D-31), Howard J. Hunter, III (D-5), Carolyn G. Logan (D-101), Nasif Majeed (D-99), Graig R. Meyer (D-50), Derwin L. Montgomery (D-72), Marcia Morey (D-30), Raymond E. Smith, Jr. (D-21), Evelyn Terry (D-71), Brian Turner (D-116), Michael H. Wray (D-27)
Multiple medical cannabis bills were introduced between 2001-2018 and the language in each remained fairly consistent. Support for medical marijuana bills has increased over the years. The 2017 bill H185-Legalize Medical Marijuana had 15 sponsors, H401 had 19. One major difference this session was the removal of a home grow provision for patients. Legislators should be encouraged to model future bills on NORML’s patient-centric model, which proposes:
- Access to whole-plant cannabis
- Limited taxes and fees
- Wide latitude for doctors to decide treatment regimens
- Personal cultivation rights
- Employment protections
- And other reasonable civil statutory protections
H409-Legalize FDA-Approved Schedule VI Drugs
Sponsors: Gregory F. Murphy, MD (R-9), Pat McElraft (R-13), Wayne Sasser (R-67)
This bill would make it legal to prescribe, distribute, dispense, administer, transfer, transport, possess, or use any prescription drug product containing marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinol, “for which an application has been approved under Section 505 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, as amended, provided that any such action is consistent with federal law.” The bill was referred to the Health Committee on 3/21/19; the Health Committee which was chaired at that time by Murphy. The bill was to be referred to Judiciary Committee if reported favorably in the Health Committee, then to House Rules Committee. On 4/25/19, referral to Judiciary was dropped.
HEMP SPECIFIC BILLS
S315-North Carolina Farm Act of 2019
Sponsors: Brent Jackson (R-10), Norman W.Sanderson (R-2), Todd Johnson (R-35), Dan Bishop (R-39), Jim Burgin (R-12), Ben Clark (D-21), Jim Davis (R-50), Kirk deViere (D-19), Chuck Edwards (R-48), Valerie P. Foushee (D-23), Rick Gunn (R-24), Paul A. Lowe, Jr. (D-32), Tom McInnis (R-25), Mujtaba A. Mohammed (D-38), Paul Newton (R-26), Jim Perry (R-7), Vickie Sawyer (R-34), Sam Searcy (D-17), Erica D. Smith (D-3), Bob Steinburg (R-1), Joyce Waddell (D-40), Mike Woodard (D-22)
The bill was revised 10 times between introduction and passage through several committees, due to several legislators’ concerns. Most of the bill dealt specifically with hemp, but it also addressed disposition of unused utility company easements; right-of-way for left turning farm equipment; outdoor advertising of bona fide farms; renewable energy resources; including hunting, fishing and shooting in the definition of agritourism; and the North Carolina Sweet Potato Program. The bill would establish the North Carolina Hemp Program and set forth regulations for hemp farming, possessing, handling, transport, or selling of hemp products or hemp extracts, and would allow hemp products to be transported to other states and exported to foreign nations.
This bill has a complex history, and will be discussed in a separate post.
S352-Amend NC Controlled Substances Act
Sponsors: Tom McInnis (R-25), Jim Davis (R-50), Ralph Hise (R-47), Joyce Krawiec (R-31). The original bill and the first edition dealt with Schedule I (including opiates and hallucinogens) and Schedule IV drugs (including both depressant and stimulant drugs), and included more designer versions of these drugs in the definitions.
Discussed in the Senate Rules and Judiciary Committees, and passed 2 readings on the Senate before the bill was sent to the House on 5/6/19.
The Committee on House Rules, Calendar and Operations Committee sent the bill to the Health Committee, where it also received a favorable report on 7/9/19, and referred the bill to the House Judiciary Committee.
In the House Judiciary Committee, additional language was inserted to add new definitions of marijuana:
- “smokable hemp” is not a hemp product
- “smokable hemp” is marijuana,
except when “…in the possession, custody, or control of a person who holds a license permitting that person to cultivate or handle hemp; hemp products; or hemp extracts. A licensed cultivator or licensed handler may possess raw hemp plant material for the purpose of (i) selling the raw hemp plant material to a licensed handler or a person who may legally receive the raw hemp plant material in that person’s jurisdiction or (ii) processing the raw hemp plant material into a hemp product or hemp extract.”
While this additional language may lessen the impact of the bill for farmers, handlers and processors, the implications for stores selling “smokable hemp” or for persons possessing it after purchase are potentially very serious.
The bill was re-referred to the House Rules Committee on 7/17/19, and received no further hearings in that committee.