Pubdate: Sat, 14 Jun 2014
Source: Morganton News Herald, The (NC)
Copyright: 2014 Media General Inc.
Author: Tyler Johnson


While medical marijuana activists march along U.S. 70 ramping up 
awareness of House Bill 1161 -- the North Carolina Medical Cannabis 
Act -- it could, perhaps, be all for not.

At least that's the opinion of N.C. House Rep. Hugh Blackwell (R-86).

While he has not viewed the bill, Blackwell said he doesn't think it 
will make it out of its assigned committee.

Once bills are introduced in the General Assembly, they are reviewed 
by judiciary committees before they are brought before the voting 
body of government.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Kelly Alexander (D-107), who also 
introduced the bill in 2013, and its fate was the same as Blackwell's 
prediction for the current bill.

Ultimately, Blackwell believes the lack of majority support in the 
assembly will keep the bill from ever becoming a serious consideration.

"I would be surprised if it was approved by the committee," Blackwell 
said. "I don't think it's ever been on the house floor for a vote."

Blackwell said the bill could die in the committee if its members 
don't address it within the session time frame.

If the bill isn't addressed before the General Assembly adjourns for 
the year, Alexander will have to reintroduce the bill in the 
following session unless he forces the bill to be considered by way 
of a discharge petition. He would need 61 signatures from the members 
of the house to bring the bill into consideration.

Personally, Blackwell said the only way he would consider supporting 
such a bill was if it were for medical purposes only. However, the 
bill would have to be narrowly tailored to identity patients and the 
physicians who would prescribe the medication.

"There are some physicians who would write prescriptions for anybody 
and everybody," Blackwell said. "We don't want some to turn into an 
open door prescription mill anymore than we would want a doctor 
giving out prescriptions for morphine or other medication to every 
Tom, Dick and Harry."

Some proponents of the bill have alluded to the possible revenues it 
could generate. According to the bill, based off of data from other 
states that have legalized medical cannabis, North Carolina could 
make $250 million in revenues per year by signing the bill into law.

Blackwell said he doesn't understand why some would want to make 
money off others shortfalls.

"In some ways, it doesn't make sense. If someone wants to help those 
that need it, then why would you do it by hiking up the prices," 
Blackwell said. "No one's advocating to raise taxes on medication and 
if people need marijuana for pain, then why would you want to make it 
expensive for them?

"If we are doing it for recreational purposes, which I do not 
support, then it makes a little more sense."

Regardless of what type of cannabis bill makes it onto the floor for 
a vote, Blackwell said he will only support a bill that focuses on 
medical cannabis.

"I certainly don't want to come across that I have decided to support 
this," Blackwell said. "Maybe, if it was narrow enough. I haven't 
made up my mind yet. I'm still a skeptic at this point."
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