A Pocket Full of Felonies

My flight leaves in about 12 hours and the anxiety I usually feel starts to set in. I’m not nervous about the flight at all; at this point, after doing comedy for a decade, I’ve gotten used to flying. No, I’m nervous because I’m a stoner doing 10 shows in five cities in North and South Carolina. Let’s just say, North and South Carolina aren’t the most weed-friendly places in America.

I’m nervous about what clothes to pack, so I pack my Proxy instead and take a fat rip, knowing it’s going to be 14 days before I can take a proper dab again. Usually, my go-to travel setup is edibles, a couple of rosin vape pens, my Peak Pro, and a few grams of that good good.

Weed is currently decriminalized in North Carolina, so it’s like a $200 fine, but I think it’s still a pretty harsh penalty for concentrates. I also don’t want to be that guy on tour that has to be bailed out. It’s been 4 years since I’ve toured the Carolinas opening for Pauly Shore. It’s when I learned that the vape pens were hardcore felonies, or at least that’s what the TSA agent told me on my flight back to California. Unbeknownst to that agent, I had just handed him my fanny pack full of weed cartridges. I was pouring bullets of sweat when they pulled me aside after going through the X-ray. They were wondering if I could introduce them to Pauly Shore.

Everyone loves Pauly Shore but in the Bible Belt, he is like Redneck Jesus.

I decided to stick with some gummies and real deal resin vapes, a gift from a holy-man. I look at my suitcase one more time and remember what my very Mexican mother said the last time I went to North Carolina: “Wear lots of tie dye because it makes you look less threatening, and do not go back to anyone’s house after the shows. You go straight to the hotel.” She has nothing to worry about as long as I don’t run out of weed.

Courtesy of Frank Castillo

RALEIGH

I like to think of my comedy as kind of a tightrope act. Pauly’s audiences are fucking amazing and he sells out wherever we go. Regardless of whatever level you’re at, opening for Pauly is part of growing as a comedian and it’s fun. Driving city to city, It’s like a dysfunctional family road trip but with more laughs. The show is me opening for 25 minutes, Jessie Johnson getting the sweet spot featuring for 25 minutes, and Pauly closing it out.

The first venue was Good Nights Comedy Club in Raleigh. It’s a beautiful red brick building; so much history in this club. Sadly, they are tearing it down and moving to another spot.

I always get introduced to the Comedy Club’s resident stoner, this time it was one of the cooks. He kept asking me if I wanted to hit his contraption he calls the “Blinky”. It’s a homemade bong he kept in his car cup holder. Another employee hit my rosin pen and had a come-to-Jesus moment.

Only one show gave me trouble and that’s because, from what I understand, Raleigh is kind of a liberal city in North Carolina. The people that give me trouble when it comes to my comedy are pearl-clutchers, which could be either side of the aisle; gun rights activists who want to give teachers guns, and people who hate the word “privileged.”

Courtesy of Frank Castillo

GREENSBORO BROOOOOO

I love driving through the Carolinas, but there’s nothing more breathtaking than seeing a Steak ‘n Shake sign the same exit as your hotel. Unfortunately, because it’s fucking Greensboro and it’s a Monday night, everything shuts down at like 10 PM. I’m staring through the Steak ‘n Shake window absolutely devastated that I can’t get a Nutella milkshake. The whole time Jessie and Pauly are laughing in the back of the car. I give my pen a long rip and drive us to the hotel defeated.

The second we get to the hotel, Jessie is listening to her set and in her notebook. I, on the other hand, am covering the smoke detector with the bag you get from the ice bucket. Priorities.

The Greensboro Comedy Zone is family-owned and its green room is attached directly to the kitchen. You’ll be getting ready for the show, going over your notes, as they drop a fresh bag of mozzarella sticks. You can smell the french fries while you memorize punchlines.

I thought Greensboro was going to give me the most trouble and it ended up being my favorite show of the trip. Not because I did well but because I got to watch people not like my comedy. I have a joke about being in an interracial relationship, all the minorities that were in the audience laughed. A good amount of white people laughed as well, but there are always one or two couples that just stare at me, looking at me disapprovingly with their arms crossed. That shit’s my favorite.

Charlotte

As we pull in, I take inventory. I’ve got one full pen and I’ve killed the edibles. I find an ABX pen from an earlier trip to Mexico. Which means I went through their security and they didn’t notice. I count my blessings.

The Charlotte Comedy Zone is beautifully built. Colosseum-style seating and the stage is much higher than the audience below you but rises the farther back you go. Pauly’s got this room sold out and every joke you can feel gets longer because of the laughs.

This crowd is an interesting mix. I see some 1776 shirts, thin blue line hoodies and those guys did not shake my hand or want to take pictures with me after the show. After my school shooting joke, a few people tightened up and I called them snowflakes. It felt like I was in California for a second; it immediately gets them back. We leave that night and drive to Greenville for a show day and a day off.

Courtesy of Frank Castillo

Greenville

We stay in Greenville for two days. The show is on a Thursday and it sold out so fast they had to add a second show. I am officially out of weed. The homie Fumed Glass pulls up and graces us with some beautiful glass pieces and pendants. Explaining to Pauly Shore what a pendant is was very entertaining.

After the shows, people occasionally hand me goodies, usually their best homegrown stuff which is hit or miss. When we get back to the hotel, I ask the valet where’s the best place to smoke weed. He tells me he’s actually the owner of the valet company and that the best place to smoke is the little smoking area where the employees smoke. He tells me the manager of the hotel is gone for the night so I am pretty much free to just blaze up. Love when stoners help each other out.

Black Mountain

Asheville is a cute little town with amazing barbecue. The venue where we’re doing the show is in the next town over in Black Mountain at a place called Silverado’s.

A man in a cowboy hat informs me it used to be an outlaw biker bar and now it’s a country music venue. The show is outside on a rock stage and it’s a full crowd. The show is sponsored by a delta-9/CBD company.

North Carolina has these weird laws where somehow delta-9 and delta-8 slipped through the cracks. They won’t legalize weed, but they’ll try to figure some other weird shit out.

Someone hands me a joint and informs me I’m smoking delta-9 Cookies. It’s one of those joints where I can’t really tell if I’m stoned or not.

I start talking with the owner’s brother about doing concentrates and he says, “Yeah man, I have dabs in my car if you want to try some.” He pulls out a Huni Badger and a gram of what I can only describe as some home grown concentrates. It had sticks and twigs in it and surprisingly didn’t taste that bad.

After my set a fan wants to smoke weed with me before I leave and he says, “Yeah, I own this place. I’m also running for sheriff!” I immediately start laughing. Someone hands me an edible and says “It’s pretty good man, trust me!”

Usually I’m a little bit more wary about the things people hand me when it comes to edibles because you never know. We go to a bar afterwards to celebrate the end of the 10-day tour. We reflect on the trip, life, and comedy.

Courtesy of Frank Castillo

Then everything I took hits me. All of a sudden, my face starts to get hot and my hands get really sweaty. I feel really high and not normal. I start to get a little panicky and my limbs feel like they are disconnected from my body. My face starts to feel prickly.

I text my homie who is in the industry and ask, “Hey man, I think I got delta-9 or delta-8 or some shit.” I recap my whole night and he goes, “Yeah, just take it easy drink some water and take some CBD if you need it. I wouldn’t really worry about the edible.” A wave of relief washed over me.

“What I’d really be worried about is whatever else he smokes outta that Huni Badger.”

We make it back to the hotel, I murder the snack bar and I pass out in a pile of chips.

After a long flight back to Los Angeles I get picked up from the airport and I’m greeted with a packed Puffco and the sweet deliciousness of some California rosin. As we head back home to Hollywood I think, I can’t wait to go back on the road.

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North Carolina Gov. Signs Bill Marking Legal Hemp Permanent

Hemp is now permanently legal in North Carolina thanks to a bill signed into law by the state’s governor.

The legislation was one of three measures signed on Thursday by Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat. As written, the bill will permanently remove hemp from the state’s list of controlled substances, which brings North Carolina in line with federal law.

Cooper hailed the bill as a win for Tar Heel State farmers.

“Agriculture is North Carolina’s largest industry and giving North Carolina farmers certainty that they can continue to participate in this growing market is the right thing to do for rural communities and our economy,” Cooper said in a statement following the bill’s signing.

Changes to federal law over the last eight years have made it possible for states to cultivate hemp, a policy that has been a boon to the agriculture community.

In 2014, Congress passed a Farm Bill that enabled state governments and research institutions to cultivate and produce hemp under so-called “pilot programs.”

The 2018 Farm Bill changed national policy over hemp entirely by removing it from the federal Controlled Substances Act.

As the National Conference of State Legislatures explained: “The 2018 Farm Bill allows states and tribes to submit a plan and apply for primary regulatory authority over the production of hemp in their state or in their tribal territory. As described in the USDA interim final rule, a state plan must include certain requirements, such as keeping track of land, testing methods, and disposal of plants or products that exceed the allowed THC concentration. The USDA will review and issue a decision within 60 days on plans submitted by a state to the agency with the goal of providing states enough time to implement their plan before the 2020 hemp season.”

North Carolina had treated its hemp cultivation as a pilot program, which was scheduled to lapse at the end of June. The bill signed into law on Thursday by Cooper extends the program beyond that month, and into the future.

The measure had overwhelming support in North Carolina’s Republican-controlled general assembly, with members of the state Senate passing the bill unanimously in May.

The hemp bill fared better than a proposal to legalize medical cannabis in North Carolina. Members of the state Senate approved that legislation last month by a vote of 35-10, but has stalled in the state House of Representatives.

The bill would permit patients with the following qualifying conditions to receive medical cannabis as a treatment: Cancer; Epilepsy; Positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS); Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); Crohn’s disease; Sickle cell anemia; Parkinson’s disease; Post-traumatic stress disorder, subject to evidence that an applicant experienced one or more traumatic events; Multiple sclerosis; Cachexia or wasting syndrome; Severe or persistent nausea in a person who is not pregnant that is related to end-of-life or hospice care, or who is bedridden or homebound because of a condition; a terminal illness when the patient’s remaining life expectancy is less than six months; or a condition resulting in the individual receiving hospice care.

Polls have shown that North Carolina voters are broadly supportive of both medical and recreational cannabis.

Seventy-two percent of registered voters in the state said they are in favor of medical cannabis use, according to a survey released in April. The same poll found that 57% of North Carolina voters believe recreational cannabis should be legal, too.

Support for medical cannabis included 64% of North Carolina Republicans, 46% of whom said they are in favor of recreational pot being made legal.

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North Carolina Lawmakers Advance Medical Cannabis Bill

North Carolina took another step toward finally legalizing medical cannabis on Thursday, with members of the state Senate overwhelmingly passing a bill that would authorize the treatment for a host of ailments and conditions.

The measure passed the chamber on a vote of 35-10, according to the News & Observer newspaper.

It now heads to the state House of Representatives. Republicans hold majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly. The state’s governor, Roy Cooper, is a Democrat.

The bill, officially known as the North Carolina Compassionate Care Act, would authorize medical cannabis for individuals with the following qualifying conditions: Cancer; Epilepsy; Positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS); Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); Crohn’s disease; Sickle cell anemia; Parkinson’s disease; Post-traumatic stress disorder, subject to evidence that an applicant experienced one or more traumatic events; Multiple sclerosis; Cachexia or wasting syndrome; Severe or persistent nausea in a person who is not pregnant that is related to end-of-life or hospice care, or who is bedridden or homebound because of a condition; a terminal illness when the patient’s remaining life expectancy is less than six months; or a condition resulting in the individual receiving hospice care.

Per the News & Observer, “Democrats have asked for even broader legalization, putting forward a number of suggestions ranging from adding additional ailments to the list of covered medical conditions, to passing more sweeping laws, like decriminalization or even full recreational legalization of cannabis,” but “Republicans shot those proposals down.”

Eight of the 10 votes against the bill were Republicans, according to the News & Observer, among them state Sen. Jim Burgin, who “invoked some of the previous fights against tobacco—which remains one of North Carolina’s biggest crops, including in Burgin’s district—and implied that the bill was hypocritical because of that.”

“We’ve spent billions of dollars and passed numerous laws to stop people from smoking,” Burgin said, as quoted by the News & Observer. “We’re now voting on a new version of Big Tobacco.”

The bill’s sponsor is GOP state Sen. Bill Rabon, who has sought to assuage concerns of his fellow Republicans by arguing that the bill will create the most restrictive medical cannabis law in the United States.

“We think we’ve done the right thing. We think that every provision from start to finish has been well thought out, well laid out, and put before you,” Rabon said prior to the vote on Thursday, as quoted by local television station WITN.

As quoted by the News & Observer, Rabon said that lawmakers in North Carolina “have looked at other states, the good and the bad.”

“And we have, if not perfected, we have done a better job than anyone so far,” he said, according to the newspaper.

More than a dozen states have legalized recreational pot use for adults, and a majority have legalized medical cannabis.

But in North Carolina, neither are legal, despite there being broad support for both.

A poll in April found that 72% of voters in the Tar Heel State believe that medical cannabis should be legal. The same poll found that 57% of voters in North Carolina believe that recreational cannabis should be legal, as well.

A spokesperson for Cooper, the Democratic governor, said last year that he would be inclined to support a medical cannabis bill that was under consideration by North Carolina lawmakers at the time.

“Studies have shown medical marijuana can offer many benefits to some who suffer from chronic conditions, particularly veterans, and the Governor is encouraged that North Carolina might join the 36 other states that have authorized it for use. The Governor will review this bill as it moves through the legislative process,” the spokesperson said.

The bill that passed the state Senate on Thursday could face some tough sledding in the state House, where “House Speaker Tim Moore has expressed that he won’t take it up for a vote,” according to WITN.

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North Carolina Lawmakers Advance Bill To Make Hemp Permanently Legal

A bill in North Carolina would ensure that hemp and CBD remain legal in the state beyond this month.

Members of the state Senate approved the legislation on Tuesday, which would permanently remove hemp from North Carolina’s list of controlled substances.

According to local television station WGHP, the bill passed the chamber by a unanimous vote.

As was the case in a host of other states, North Carolina greenlit the cultivation of hemp following changes to how the federal government treats the plant in the last decade.

The 2014 Farm Bill that was passed by Congress “provided a definition for hemp and allowed for state departments of agriculture or universities to grow and produce hemp as part of research or pilot programs,” according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Four years later, the 2018 Farm Bill went further by completely changing “federal policy regarding hemp, including the removal of hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and the consideration of hemp as an agricultural product,” while also legalizing “hemp under certain restrictions and defined hemp as the plant species Cannabis sativa L. with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis,” according to NCSL.

As WGHP explained, since “hemp farming became legal under federal law in 2014, there are about 1,500 hemp growers and more than 1,200 processors in North Carolina registered under the USDA Domestic Hemp Production Rule,” but the state always regarded it as “a pilot program, which is scheduled to end in June.”

The bill passed by members of the North Carolina state Senate on Tuesday would “conform the hemp laws with federal law by permanently excluding hemp from the state Controlled Substances Act.”

Republicans in North Carolina hold majorities in both the state Senate and state House of Representatives. The state’s governor, Roy Cooper, is a Democrat.

Hemp isn’t the only area that North Carolina lawmakers are looking to reform.

Last week, Democratic state Sen. Toby Fitch introduced a bill that would legalize recreational cannabis use for adults in North Carolina.

A poll in April found that a majority of North Carolina voters are in favor of both medicinal and recreational pot, both of which are currently illegal in the Tar Heel State.

Under Fitch’s bill, as reported by the Winston Salem-Journal, adults in the state aged 21 and older could “possess up to two ounces of marijuana on their person.” The legislation would establish a regulatory system governing the sale of cannabis, as well.

Separately, North Carolina lawmakers are also weighing a bill that would legalize medical cannabis. According to local television station WRAL, “a bill to legalize medical marijuana for patients with certain serious illnesses, including cancer, will be heard by the Senate rules committee Wednesday,” and that the bill “is expected to win committee approval.”

Should the legislation emerge from the committee, it “could reach the Senate floor as early as Thursday,” according to WRAL.

The poll released in April found that 72% of voters in North Carolina believe medical cannabis should be legal, including 64% of Republicans, 75% of Democrats, and 78% of Independents.

Cooper has indicated previously that he would likely sign a medical cannabis bill into law.

Last year, when a medical cannabis proposal was under consideration by the General Assembly, a spokesperson for the Democratic governor said: “Studies have shown medical marijuana can offer many benefits to some who suffer from chronic conditions, particularly veterans, and the Governor is encouraged that North Carolina might join the 36 other states that have authorized it for use. The Governor will review this bill as it moves through the legislative process.”

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North Carolina Lawmaker Introduces Legalization Bill

A Democratic lawmaker in North Carolina on Monday introduced a bill that would legalize the sale and possession of recreational cannabis for adults in the state.

State Sen. Toby Fitch’s proposal focuses primarily on “the sale, possession and use of marijuana,” according to the Winston-Salem Journal, “although a section covers the legal use of industrial hemp.”

As in other states and cities that have lifted the prohibition on pot, Fitch’s bill would apply to individuals who are 21 and older.

Under the proposal, those adults could “possess up to two ounces of marijuana on their person,” the newspaper reported, but there would be restrictions and penalties tied to consuming pot in public.

According to the Winston-Salem Journal, anyone “who possesses more than two ounces on their person in a public setting could be subject to a civil penalty of up to $25,” but “anyone possessing more than one pound of marijuana—not including a marijuana licensure—could be found guilty of a Class F felony and face a fine of up to $250,000.”

Neither recreational nor medicinal cannabis are legal in the Tar Heel State––one of a dwindling number of states with outright prohibition still intact.

According to the Winston-Salem Journal, the bill “may represent an attempt to link legalization to a medical marijuana bill…that cleared three Senate committees during the 2021 session before stalling in August in Rules and Operations.”

The medical cannabis bill was introduced last year by a Republican state Senator.

Fitch’s bill would also establish a regulatory body overseeing the new cannabis market called the Cannabis Control Commission.

Under the text of the legislation, the commission would “consist of a Chief Executive Officer, the Board of Directors, and the agents and employees of the Commission. The Commission shall be administratively located within the Department of Public Safety but shall exercise its powers independently of the Secretary of Public Safety.”

The commission would issue rules over the sale and transportation of cannabis, while also enforcing them.

The regulatory body would also be charged with overseeing the social equity provisions of the new law, which are designed to provide opportunities within the new market to communities that have been disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs.

Of course, all of this may well be moot, given the composition of the North Carolina General Assembly. Republicans control both legislative chambers, while Democrats have one of their own, Roy Cooper, currently serving as governor.

A spokesperson for the Democratic governor indicated last year that Cooper would be amenable to signing the medical cannabis legislation that was introduced.

“Studies have shown medical marijuana can offer many benefits to some who suffer from chronic conditions, particularly veterans, and the Governor is encouraged that North Carolina might join the 36 other states that have authorized it for use,” the spokesperson told the Outer Banks Voice. “The Governor will review this bill as it moves through the legislative process.”

There is reason to believe that North Carolina voters are ready for lawmakers to legalize both medicinal and recreational cannabis.

A poll last month found that a whopping majority of North Carolina voters––72%––are in favor of legalizing medical cannabis. The support included 64% of state Republicans, 75% of Democrats, and nearly 80% of independents.

A smaller majority of voters in North Carolina, 57%, said that recreational pot use should also be legal, including 63% of Democrats, and 60% of independents.

On the subject of recreational cannabis, state Republicans were divided, with 46% saying it should be made legal and 44% saying it should remain illegal.

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Study Shows Drivers in Legal States Less Likely to Drive While High

The study on drivers was conducted by researchers at the Center for Health, Analytics, Media and Policy, RTI International and Office of Research Protection in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, which was published online on April 23, but is slated to be published in Preventive Medicine Reports in June 2022.

The study analyzed consumption behaviors of 1,249 individuals. Over one third of participants reported driving under the influence within three hours of getting high in the last 30 days, and another one third shared their use of cannabis within 20 or more days within a 30-day period.

“Current cannabis users in recreational and medical-only cannabis states were significantly less likely to report driving within three hours of getting high in the past 30 days, compared to current users living in states without legal cannabis,” researchers wrote. “The one exception was frequent cannabis users who lived in medical cannabis states. Their risk of DUIC [driving under the influence of cannabis] did not differ significantly from frequent users living in states without legal cannabis.”

Researchers suggested a solution to address driving under the influence of cannabis, which should be specifically targeted toward states without legal cannabis programs. “Our findings suggest that DUIC prevention is most needed in states without legalized cannabis. Because regulation of cannabis products in non-legal environments is not possible, mass media campaigns may be a good option for providing education about DUIC.” 

Overall, researchers concluded that education campaigns could help continue to prevent people from driving under the influence after consuming cannabis. “Although all states should educate its citizens about the potential dangers of using cannabis and driving, this analysis suggests that states without legal cannabis are particularly in need of DUIC prevention efforts,” they wrote. “States should consider mass media campaigns as a method of reaching all cannabis users, including more frequent users, with information about the dangers of DUIC. Medical states may consider targeting frequent users by disseminating information about DUIC through medical dispensaries.”

The study also shared that it found three other studies that mirrored this evidence. Two were shared in 2020, and one was published in 2021, with varying levels of approach regarding analyzing the effect of recreational and/or medical cannabis legalization.

NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano commented on the results of this study with the hope that it will educate those who fear the negative effects of cannabis legalization. “These findings ought to reassure those who feared that legalization might inadvertently be associated with relaxed attitudes toward driving under the influence,” said Armentano. “These conclusions show that this has not been the case and that, in fact, consumers residing in legal marijuana states are less likely to engage in this behavior than are those residing in states where cannabis possession remains criminalized.”

States such as Massachusetts are gearing up to increase how they enforce influenced driving laws. Governor Charlie Baker announced legislation in November 2021 that would “provide law enforcement officers with more rigorous drug detection training and will strengthen the legal process by authorizing the courts to acknowledge that the active ingredient in marijuana can and does impair motorists.” However, Baker’s legislation does not address how to approach measuring impairment or properly identifying if a person has recently consumed cannabis and is impaired, or if they consumed days or weeks before an incident and are no longer impaired. 

A recent study published in Canada expresses the need for a better way to detect impairment accurately. “We would love to have that one measure that says, okay, this person is impaired, or they aren’t,” said lead author Sarah Windle. “But unfortunately, in the case of cannabis, it just isn’t that simple.”

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Majority of North Carolina Voters Want Recreational and Medical Cannabis

Neither medical nor recreational cannabis is legal in North Carolina. Recent efforts to legalize both have mostly gone cold.

But if a poll released this week is any indication, there is no need to wait.

The latest findings from SurveyUSA showed broad support across bipartisan lines for reform to the state’s cannabis laws.

Seventy-two percent of registered voters in North Carolina said that cannabis for medical use should be made legal in the state, according to the poll, while only 18% said it should remain against the law.

The poll found that medical cannabis has support among 64% of North Carolina Republicans, 75% of Democrats and 78% of Independents.

When it comes to recreational pot use, 57% of North Carolina voters said it should be legal, with only 32% saying it should remain against the law.

Sixty-three percent of Democrats and 60% of Independents expressed support for recreational cannabis use, while Republicans were split on the matter.

Forty-six percent of GOP voters in North Carolina said that recreational pot should be illegal, while 44% said it should remain against the law, according to the poll.

Majorities of every age group in North Carolina expressed support for recreational cannabis––except for voters aged 65 and older, among whom only 37% said it should be legalized.

The poll numbers come at a time when cannabis reform efforts in the Tar Heel State have come to a virtual standstill.

A bill to legalize medical cannabis in North Carolina showed some promise last summer when it won approval from the state Senate Judiciary Committee.

The legislation, Senate Bill 711, was sponsored by Republican state Sen. Bill Rabon and would have authorized cannabis treatment for patients with various qualifying conditions.

But as local television station WRAL reported this week, it remains “unclear what state lawmakers will do with Senate Bill 711.”

“In August 2021, SB 711 remained in the Rules and Operations of the Senate Standing Committee. Lawmakers could resume consideration of the legislation when they convene on May 18. The legislature is then set to adjourn on June 30,” the station reported.

Per WRAL, SB 711 would authorize physicians in North Carolina to recommend medical cannabis to patients with the following qualifying conditions: Cancer; Epilepsy; HIV/AIDS; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); Crohn’s disease; Sickle cell anemia; Parkinson’s disease; Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD); Multiple sclerosis; Cachexia or wasting syndrome; Severe or persistent nausea “related to end-of-life or hospice care,” or in someone who is bedridden or homebound; a terminal illness when the patient’s remaining life expectancy is less than six months; and any condition when the patient is in hospice care.

In September, local television station WNCN said that the “bill to legalize marijuana for medical use in North Carolina may not get a vote until next year,” with lawmakers saying at the time that “the state budget and the redistricting process have become the primary issues being worked on in the final months of the year.”

“There’s far more moving parts to this thing than I thought there was when we began,” said Democratic state Sen. Paul Lowe, as quoted by WNCN. “We want to make sure we get it right.”

Should the bill ultimately land on the desk of North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, there is reason to believe the Democrat will sign the measure into law.

Last year, as SB 711 was being considered by lawmakers in North Carolina, a spokesman for Cooper said that studies “have shown medical marijuana can offer many benefits to some who suffer from chronic conditions, particularly veterans, and the Governor is encouraged that North Carolina might join the 36 other states that have authorized it for use.”

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Veterans Speak Out for State Medical Marijuana Programs

Amid a national crisis of suicides and opioid abuse by those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, more and more veterans are turning to cannabis for a more benign form of relief—and demanding legal recognition of their right to do so.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) largely remains intransigent on allowing access to cannabis. There have been efforts on Capitol Hill to address the dilemma. The most recent is the VA Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2021, which would at least mandate that the VA study use of cannabis as a treatment for chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other ailments that disproportionately pose challenges for veterans. It was approved on Nov. 5 by the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. But the VA itself continues to oppose the measure.

The first crack in the VA’s anti-cannabis dogma came in December 2017, when the Department issued Directive 1315. This states: “Veterans will not be denied VA benefits because of marijuana use.” Yet veterans are still being punished for cannabis use, denied benefits through loopholes in the Directive.

The most significant of these is that it only applies to veterans who are actually enrolled in state medical marijuana programs. So veterans not living in one of those 36 states that have established such programs still risk a cutoff of benefits if they use cannabis—even if for the exact same reasons as their card-holding brethren.

Not surprisingly, then, vets are getting vocal in support of pending state medical marijuana measures.

Retired Marine Calls for Medical Program in Tar Heel State 

In North Carolina, one of those remaining 14 hold-out states, Senate Bill 711, or the Compassionate Care Act, would legalize medical marijuana for patients with chronic illnesses. Retired US Marine Corps Sgt. George J. Papastrat in the town of Jacksonville is among those speaking out for its passage. 

Papastrat admits he was a reluctant believer in the medicinal value of cannabis. “You know…in 15 years in the Marine Corps, the thought really never even crossed my mindthat would necessarily be an option. Until, you know, the pain got real,” he told local WNCT last month.

Papastrat medically retired from the Marine Corps in 2016, suffering from back issues that led him to get a lumbar fusion. He told WNCT he had to take opioids for his pain just to be able to function.  

“I was taking opioids on active duty. And then for about three or four years after the fusion, I was taking opioid pain relievers, and that was just to make it so I could stand up, sit down…daily tasks with my children,” Papastrat said.

Papastrat is originally from New York, which has had a limited medical marijuana program since 2014, he it was there that he decided to try cannabis—and found that it worked for him. Since moving to North Carolina, he’s been in a state with no such program. So he’s been reaching out to lawmakers with his story.  

“We’re not talking about letting people run around and do drugs,” he assured WNCT. “I’m a local business owner veteran that stayed here and supports my community. And I’m just asking for a fair shake of something other than an opioid.”

The NC Compassionate Care Act would allow use of cannabis with a doctor’s recommendation for conditions such as cancer, epilepsy and PTSD. It would create a new body within the state Department of Health & Human Services empowered issue 10 licenses to companies that could operate up to four dispensaries each. It has already made it through several committees in the state house, but is not expected to go to a floor vote until 2022.

Iraq Experience Follows Vet Home to Texas

The voices of veterans played a role in the recent passage of a law expanding the existing but heretofore harshly limited medical program in Texas.

David Bass, a Desert Storm veteran living in the central Texas town of Killeen, Texas, credits cannabis as critical to his ongoing recovery from PTSD. He served 25 years in the Army and was did a tour of duty in Iraq starting in 2004. 

“It was heavy fighting the entire time that the First Cavalry Division was deployed to Iraq. We took some serious casualties,” he recalled to Spectrum News last month, adding that he got through it by focusing on his dream of a making good life back home in Texas. “This is what I dreamed about in Iraq: a place where I could just relax safely, everything’s quiet and peaceful and I don’t have to worry about a rocket falling out of the sky.”

But for those who have survived combat, the simple life is often not so simple. Even back in the safety of Texas, he was having nightmares, outbursts of anger, and vivid flashbacks—the classic symptoms of PTSD. He sought medical treatment—but found that it actually ended up doing more harm. 

“It’s ironic that a side effect of some psychotropic pills is suicidal ideation, and they’re supposed to be helping post-traumatic stress disorder,” Bass said.

Spectrum News reports that Bass became aware of cannabis as an alternative treatment after searching online and finding a community of vets going back to the Vietnam War who have been using the herb to treat PTSD.

“The choice was cannabis or the pill, and we chose cannabis,” he said, stressing that he chose to do so reluctantly, as this was before Texas passed its limited medical marijuana law in 2015. Since then, he’s been pushing for expansion of that program, by sharing his story with lawmakers. 
These efforts paid off on June 16 of this year, when Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 1535, which adds PTSD to the list of ailments covered by the Texas Compassionate Use Program (TCUP). The measure also raises the cap on THC from 0.5 to one percent. Until now, the TCUP had been a “CBD-only” program. Raising the THC cap to 1% brings it just barely into the range of a psychoactive effect. 

The new law took effect on Sept. 1. But Bass emphasized to Spectrum News that he remains hopeful further expansion of the program is on the way.

The post Veterans Speak Out for State Medical Marijuana Programs appeared first on Cannabis Now.

Medical Cannabis Bill Clears North Carolina Senate Judiciary Committee

A bill in the North Carolina state senate just cleared the state senate judiciary committee. If it becomes law, medical cannabis could become legal in the state. 

State Senate Bill 711, or the NC Compassionate Care Act, is the state’s latest attempt. North Carolina is one of the only states left in the U.S. that still doesn’t even have at least a medical program. 

On July 21, the bill passed the judiciary committee and was sent to the Senate Health Care committee. It was then removed from that committee and sent back to the judiciary committee on August 4 for more amendments and technical changes requested by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

The bill is being sponsored by Bill Rabon, a Republican from Brunswick. Some of the changes being made are also based on regulations made in Utah to a similar bill. Revisions include adding a new category for folks with terminal illnesses and less than six months to live, prohibition on smoking or vaping at school or in the workplace or house of worship, an identification card program for those who get prescribed medical cannabis and specific operating hours for dispensaries. 

Still, the bill does not have a free and clear path yet. The Senate Health Care committee will be tough to pass, and the House is expected to give some pushback as well. 

North Carolina Pushes Through

However, analysts do think the bill has a good chance of clearing the senate, since Rabon is also chairman of the Rules and Operations Committee. Also sponsoring the bill are Senators Paul Lowe, D-Forsyth and Michael Lee, R-New Hanover.

If passed, funding for the bill would come from license fees and a monthly fee that equals 10 percent of gross revenue from cannabis sales. This would be different from other legal states. 

“There really are no projections on how many North Carolinians will be eligible, and there is no best-practice legislation to look at,” Lee said. “Once we have a determination on how many people actually have the conditions that are specified in the bill, then we can determine costs and revenue.”

Those supporting the bill claim it should pass because it is still very restrictive, and therefore shouldn’t raise alarms for those nervous about legalization. Senator Wally Nickel, D-Wake, called it “the most conservative and restrictive medical marijuana bill in the country.”

“This bill is narrowly tailored to offer medical marijuana to those with legitimate medical needs,” Nickel said.

To support its passing, the bill also claims that  “modern medical research has found that cannabis and cannabinoid compounds are effective at alleviating pain, nausea and other symptoms associated with several debilitating medical conditions.”

Some still have concerns about legalizing medically, despite all this. The Reverend Mark Creech of the Christian Action League claims that marijuana should be taxed similarly to tobacco and alcohol, rather than as a prescription drug. He worries about a black market emerging from the legal, medical cannabis centers.

But Rabon, a Republican and cancer survivor, disagrees. And Lee, who does not support recreational cannabis, also backs up the reasoning for needing a medical market. 

“Recreational marijuana use is not something we want in our state,” Lee said.

“We realized that, for some states, it has worked out well, while for others it was just a recreational product,” Lowe said regarding the bill. “That’s not the goal with this particular bill in our state.”

The bill has also been amended to reduce the number of medical centers from eight to four, in order to further impose control on the industry. If this bill does pass, it will still be very restrictive, but relief to cannabis patients will finally be in sight. 

The post Medical Cannabis Bill Clears North Carolina Senate Judiciary Committee appeared first on High Times.

Episode 372 – The New Cannabis Workplace

Betty Aldworth and Heather Sullivan join first-time host Brian Adams to talk about the evolution of marijuana use by workers, the push to drive social equity through delivery licensing, and possible revisions to medical marijuana laws in states like Colorado. Produced by Shea Gunther.

Photo: Hugo Chisholm/Flickr