Pubdate: Wed, 6 Apr 2011
Source: Richmond County Daily Journal (NC)
Page: Front Page, Top of Page
Copyright: 2011 Richmond County Daily Journal
Author: Philip D. Brown
Cited: North Carolina Cannabis Patients Network
Referenced: House Bill 577
Bookmark: (North Carolina)


The N.C. House of Representatives will once again take up the issue 
of medical cannabis in the coming months, with seven representatives 
signing onto a bill described as "having some merit" by this 
district's representative.

North Carolina Cannabis Patients' Network President Perry Parks, of 
Rockingham, lauded the introduction of House Bill 577 last week, and 
pointed to efforts to make medicinal marijuana available in this 
state, the home of Fort Bragg and other large scale military 
installations, is a key effort to help veterans recovering from 
wounds they received, especially in combat.

"This is especially tragic in the state of North Carolina, with its 
large veteran population, to deny the treatment afforded to those in 
the 15 states that have passed legislation supporting medical 
cannabis," Parks said. "Consider the fact that the Veteran's 
Administration itself recognizes cannabis as an effective treatment 
for six different disorders, including the one I suffer from: 
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder."

N.C. Rep. Ken Goodman was not one of those to sign on to sponsor the 
bill, but said he has an open mind about the issue if and when it 
makes it to the floor of the House for a vote.

"There's a lot of evidence out there that marijuana could provide 
relief for people who are suffering from cancer and other chronic 
illnesses," Goodman said Monday morning. "There's definitely some 
merit to this bill, and it deserves to be looked at."

Goodman noted several other states have already passed measures 
allowing medical marijuana, and said the economic impact the bill 
could have on the state "is also a consideration."

Economists from the UNC system estimate the bill would generate about 
$250 million in the first year for the state. After that, the 
assumption is the revenue would increase annually as more producers 
and distributors enter the market.

Goodman also said North Carolina's system to deliver medical cannabis 
to patients would have to be more tightly regulated there would have 
to be better defined than say, the law in California, was.

"(Administering marijuana as a medication) would have to be done 
under strict control for well-documented and specific situations by a 
credible physician, and the patient would need to remain under their 
care while taking it," Goodman said.

Federal Scheduling and Regulation

Obama Administration Attorney General Eric Holder made one of his 
first announcements after being appointed in 2009 a reversal of the 
president's stance on medical marijuana in states that allow it from 
the Bush Administration position, declaring federal law enforcement 
would honor a state's right to determine whether to allow medical marijuana.

While the federal government allows states to recognize the medicinal 
qualities of marijuana, however, the federal Drug Enforcement 
Administration continues to schedule marijuana as a substance with no 
medicinal value, despite ample evidence to the contrary being 
produced in the medical profession.

Last year, the U.S. Veterans Administration became the first to 
acknowledge the medicinal qualities of cannabis, which is thought of 
as such in most parts of the westernized world aside from America.

Veteran's Administration Directive

Marijuana has also shown promise in clinical trials testing its 
effectiveness as a treatment for both post-traumatic stress disorder 
and traumatic brain injury, afflictions common among enlisted men 
returning from war.

The evidence has mounted to the point that last year, then again this 
year, the federal Veteran's Administration issued directives allowing 
clients in states where medical marijuana has been approved to use it 
without endangering their pain management contracts with the VA 
health care system.

In states where medical marijuana has not been approved, a veteran 
who tests positive for it forfeits the privilege of receiving pain 
management medications from the VA.

Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access Executive Director Michael 
Krawitz pointed out North Carolina has an excellent opportunity to 
stand up for those who serve due to its large population of both 
active duty and former military personnel. He is from southwestern Virginia.

"Right now, the best way to protect veterans from criminal 
prosecution and ensure they have access to the proper treatment of 
their physical ailments is for the state to pass legislation that 
supports their right to use medicinal marijuana," Krawitz said this week.

Bipartisan Support

This is the second medical marijuana bill to reach Raleigh, following 
HB 1380, which stalled out in the House's Judicial Committee last year.

Unlike the last bill, Parks said those in the General Assembly who 
prepare bills to be introduced have worked with the groups pushing 
the bill to ensure it is synchronized with other general statute.

At last year's state Democratic Party County Executive Committee 
Convention in Fayetteville, the state's grassroots Democrat base 
called for legislation supporting medical marijuana, especially in 
the case of veterans, who are being deprived of a 
scientifically-promising treatment, in the wording of the resolution.

It also asked for the request "to remove all obstacles" to passing 
this legislation be delivered to each state legislator, member of the 
Council of State, the Governor, the Attorney General and other officials.

This version of the bill enjoys bipartisan support in the General 
Assembly, unlike its predecessor, after Republican N.C. Rep. Glen 
Bradley, of Youngsville, signed on as a co-sponsor Friday. He is 
joined by six Democrats, including primary sponsor N.C. Rep. Kelly 
Alexander, of Charlotte.

Assuming the bill reached the floor and enjoyed the support of 
four-fifths of the Democrats, it would take roughly 15 to 20 
Republican votes to make it a go.

"The scientific evidence is mounting, and the walls are crumbling all 
around the prohibition movement," Parks said. "If North Carolina 
misses out on this golden opportunity to put its farmers back to work 
growing a plant that shrinks tumors instead of causing them - we will 
look back on this and say it is one of the saddest this state has 
seen since the introduction of commercial tobacco production."  
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake