Pubdate: Sat, 02 Apr 2011
Source: Asheville Citizen-Times (NC)
Copyright: 2011 Asheville Citizen-Times
Author: Nanci Bompey


RALEIGH -- A local state lawmaker introduced a bill this week that
would make it legal to grow and use marijuana for medical purposes.

Rep. Patsy Keever, D-Buncombe, is one of three primary sponsors of the
North Carolina Medical Cannabis Act filed on Thursday.

The legislation would allow patients with debilitating medical
conditions to use marijuana to alleviate their symptoms. It would set
up a system for operating medical cannabis centers and growing
marijuana for medical use.

Keever said marijuana has proved to be a good, affordable pain
reliever for people who suffer from chronic illnesses or are
undergoing cancer treatments. She said the state could also make money
from growing it.

"We're not saying that we want everyone smoking weed," Keever said.
"We want people to be alleviated from their pain."

Medical use and cultivation of marijuana is legal in 15 states and the
District of Columbia, but no Southern states have legalized the drug
for medical use.

Similar medical marijuana bills introduced in North Carolina have
gained little traction. Previous legislation introduced in past
sessions never made it to the floor.

A recent vote by the state House to ban synthetic marijuana gives a
good indication of how the bill will do, said Charles Thomas, a former
state lawmaker and current chief of staff for Speaker of the House
Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg.

"I would predict that the members won't have a tremendous amount of
interest in the bill," he said. "A lot of folks have bigger fish to

Although North Carolina is a "purple" state, there is still a strong
conservative element, said Gibbs Knotts, political science professor
at Western Carolina University.

The Republican-controlled General Assembly is also focused on budget
issues right now, he said. He said couching the bill in terms of
revenue generation could help the legislation move forward, but it is

"Although it (North Carolina) has changed and become less traditional
over time, with the political culture in this state, it would surprise
me if a bill on medical marijuana got momentum here," Knotts said.

As for Keever's decision to co-sponsor the bill, Knotts said it likely
wouldn't hurt her chances for re-election in the state House. But he
said it could be detrimental if she chooses to run for U.S. Congress
or governor.

"It would be tough to run for a statewide office having introduced
some policy like that," he said. "I can see the commercials now."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.