Preliminary discussions about the 2019 legislation for North Carolina are underway, and legislators have shared plans to look at a measure to legalize marijuana at a local level.
N.C. Rep. Kelly Alexander has stated that the move is a logical one, considering the growing evidence of marijuana as an effective measure to alleviate pain and stress. Also, polls as recent as 2017 showed that state residents are largely in favour of legalization for medical use. Meanwhile, roughly 45% support recreational use legalization.
The potential legislation set for introduction would allow municipalities to decide for their own areas, rather than create a blanket law to legalize marijuana for medical or recreational use.
The legislation will be similar to the method North Carolina used for alcohol after Prohibition. Once the legislation is in place, specific locales can move forward with their own laws through votes by town council or the county commission or by citizens’ petitions to encourage a referendum.
Now that the door has opened for consideration, supporters and opposition alike are speaking up. Factors that require consideration, according to these voices, include public safety, avoidance of a revolving door of regulation changes to help the market grow quickly and thrive, and creating a foundation upon which legalization of recreational use can stand.
Currently, 32 states have legalized marijuana for medical use. The FDA recently approved the first marijuana-related drug for treatment of children, and hemp was legalized through the farm bill. The momentum is growing for marijuana legislation, and North Carolina is, if anything, a bit behind the times.
Measures to allow a legislative move that citizens support almost unanimously are well overdue. However, the government in North Carolina is controlled by Republicans, a situation that has typically led to roadblocks for legalization efforts in other states.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has been in office since 2017. As recently as this year, Gov. Cooper has said the time is not right for his state to make the move to legalize marijuana, so a veto may be possible. However, Gov. Cooper has already had numerous vetoes overturned by the legislature, so hope remains that the marijuana legalization measure could succeed.