NC Medical Marijuana Bill (2011-2012 legislative session)
On Feb 9th, 2011 NC NORML of Raleigh attended a meeting to discuss the introduction of the new Medical Marijuana bill to NC legislation. NC state Representative Kelly Alexander Jr. of Mecklenberg has agreed to be the primary sponsor of the bill, which was written by Ben Scales (who also wrote HB 1380 that failed last session). Republican representative Glen Bradley (Franklin, Halifax, Nash) was there and said he would do what he can to help us, though I don't think we got a definite 'yes' on whether or not he will sponsor or co-sponsor the bill. Also in attendance were Perry Parks--President of NCCPN (North Carolina Cannabis Patients Network), Rebecca Forbes--CEO of Carolina Cannabis Coalition, and a handful of others including veterans, health professionals and supporters of this bill. I (Robert Dalton) was representing NC NORML of Raleigh.
Representative Alexander conversed with us about where the bill is at, what steps we need to take, and gave his professional advice on what we need to do once the Medical bill gets introduced. Currently, the bill needs to go to drafting to be reviewed. The review process, by his account, is expected to take 7 to 10 days once there. From there, the bill will be introduced to the state House and then will be recommended to go to (most likely) either the Financial committee, the Judiciary committee, or the Health committee. The bill MUST be introduced by March 16th, or we will have no medical bill until next session in 2013!!
One of the most exciting things we found out today was that Rep. Alexander is also working on his own bill that will make possessing 1.5 ounces or less of marijuana an infraction, rather than a class 3 misdemeanor, which means if you get caught with 1.5 oz or less, it will essentially be a ticket, and it will not go on your criminal record. Similar laws have passed in California, and various cities across the country, and is being considered in Hawaii. He said the bill does not include paraphenalia (bongs, pipes, grinders etc.) or concentrated forms of marijuana such as hashish. THIS IS HUGE for NC!! The petition we (NC NORML of Raleigh) started redrafting, which would require almost 26,000 valid signatures from Raleigh registered voters to get it on ballot, aims to achieve almost that exact same goal, but we could only make it city-wide with that petition/ordinance.
We were told the following information to assist us in our coming battle with legislators and the different committees (with quotes from Rep. Alexander):
1.) Get as many people from ALL NC counties to come down to talk with legislators, or at the very least call them to voice support. We need lobbyists to go down there often.
2.) When discussing this bill with Legislators, stress the medical necessity, while staying away from mentions of recreational use, or the bill will be "dead on the route."
3.) "We must fight perception as opposed to reality." What he meant by this was that we need to play by their rules, to include proper business attire, having prepared speeches or sources to point to, and to present yourself as a professional. We all know that the clothes you wear don't make you a better person, but if these legislators see you come in wearing sweat pants or tie-dye, they WILL NOT TAKE YOU SERIOUSLY. Thats the sad truth, so let's play hardball.
4.) We need patients who do/will benefit from the use of medical marijuana to come forward to contact these legislators, and to come to every meeting, formal or not. We also need Doctors to provide their professional opinion, and as Ben Scales said, one Doctor will be more effective than 10 patients. If you are a medical professional or know any medical professionals who will speak up, then get them involved.
5.) Contact your legislators!!! Do it now!!! Contact the NC Speaker of the House, your local representatives, and contact members of all the committees, even before the bill gets to these committees. Here is the site where you can look up your local legislators and committees-- http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/House/House.html Bookmark this site! It's going to take more than one time contacting them to get this bill passed this time.
6.) If you contact any of these committees, request to make a statement and ask them to provide a full day to discuss the medical marijuana bill. This will enable us to bring forward patients, Doctors, other medical professionals, industry and business leaders to talk to these committees face to face on an official capacity.
7.) DO NOT forget to talk to these people about the bill to make possession of 1.5 oz or less an infraction. I would argue that this will be the easier bill to pass, but we want BOTH to pass!
8.) We need Law enforcement, both retired and current, who support the end of prohibition.
Thank you all for your support. Now is the time when the true advocates can take the opportunity to step forward and make a stand in person! LET'S DO THIS!!
NC NORML of Raleigh also needs:
-YOU to call Reps Kelly Alexander and Glen Bradley to tell him you support the medical bill (919-733-5778 and 919-733-5860)
-call YOUR representatives, and NC Speaker of the House (Thom Tillis 919-733-3451)
-we need volunteers to come to meetings so we can plan strategy
-donations to NC NORML, however the website is down right now. Let us know if you would like to donate.
-we may accept t-shirt designs for NC NORML and NC NORML of Raleigh, so if you are interested in designing one, let us know!
NC NORML of Raleigh