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Marijuana on the Move Again in NC Legislature

medical marijuana including leaves, pills, and tincture on blue background

Legislation to legalize marijuana for “medical” purposes in North Carolina is on the move again in the State Legislature. On Wednesday afternoon, the Senate Judiciary Committee amended HB 563—Hemp-Derived Consumables/Con Sub Changes and added to the bill the substance of Senate Bill 3, a measure that would establish an extensive framework of licensing for the growth, manufacture, distribution, sale, possession, and use of marijuana for a variety of “medical” purposes in North Carolina. The move came as a complete surprise to many, as the marijuana legalization measure was added to a bill designed to ban and/or regulate a host of dangerous hemp-derived consumable products that are currently marketed and sold to children and adults in gas stations, convenience stores, vape shops, and other outlets across the state.

HB 563—including the Senate Bill 3 language—was then considered and approved by the Senate Rules Committee on Thursday morning and by the full Senate on an initial vote of 33-9 on Thursday afternoon. If ultimately approved by the Senate on Monday, HB 563 will return to the House for a vote to either concur or not concur with the Senate’s changes to the bill. If the House does not agree with the Senate’s changes, the bill will be sent to a conference committee where members from both chambers will be assigned to try to iron out differences between the two chambers’ versions of the bill.

Senate Bill 3, entitled “NC Compassionate Care Act,” originally passed the State Senate in March 2023 but was not taken up in the House. Because this year’s legislative session is technically a continuation of last year’s session, the bill remains eligible for consideration, but it has not been considered in the House. The move by the Senate to amend the SB 3 language into HB 563, represents yet another attempt by the Senate to force the issue on the other chamber.

In testimony before the Senate Rules Committee on Thursday, NC Family Counsel Jere Royall urged lawmakers to reject the amended version of HB 563. “We appreciate the overall effort of this bill to address the availability of substances that are harmful to children and adults,” Royall said. “We agree with making kratom and tianeptine, referred to as gas station heroin, illegal to manufacture, sell, or possess. However, adding the legalization of marijuana as medicine to this bill is contrary to the positions stated for years by the Food and Drug Administration, American Psychiatric Association, and American Medical Association.”

“Based on medical research which we have followed for many years, we encourage you to oppose House Bill 563 and the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes in North Carolina,” he concluded.


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