More than 100 people rallied at the General Assembly on Thursday in support of a Charlotte lawmaker’s effort to legalize medical marijuana.
“You are putting a face on the over 60 percent of North Carolinians … in favor of changing our drug laws so medical marijuana can be legal in North Carolina,” Rep. Kelly Alexander told supporters.
Alexander, a Charlotte Democrat, is the main sponsor of a bill to legalize medical cannabis. He has championed such legislation unsuccessfully for eight years but now feels momentum is growing.
Since 1996, when California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis, 22 other states have enacted such laws. Last week a bipartisan group of U.S. senators, including Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky and Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, introduced a measure to make it easier for more states to do the same.
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In January, Public Policy Polling found 70 percent of North Carolinians believe doctors should be able to prescribe marijuana for medical use.
Alexander has 14 co-sponsors for House Bill 78, more than he’s ever had for such a bill.
Last year, the General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a GOP-sponsored measure to create pilot projects allowing doctors to use oil from hemp plants to treat drug-resistant epilepsy. The bill was named “Hope 4 Haley and Friends” for a 5-year-old girl with intractable epilepsy, Haley Ward of Carteret County.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, North Carolina became one of 11 states allowing the use of such cannabis products for limited medical reasons.
Alexander argued that legalization would bolster the state’s agricultural economy. And supporters such as Keith Caughran of Charlotte said taxing legal cannabis would boost state revenues.
“Here’s a group of people who want to be taxed,” he said.
Alexander, whose bill faces certain opposition, promised to keep pushing.
“If you will not give up the fight, I will not give up the fight,” he said to a standing ovation.