The North Carolina Senate has voted 35-10 to legalize medical marijuana. The vote, which took place on June 2, 2022, puts the state one step closer to joining the 37 other states (plus D.C.) that have legalized marijuana for medical use.
Both Senate Democrats and Republicans voted to approve SB 711, North Carolina’s Compassionate Care Act, signaling a change of heart for many lawmakers who, up until recently, opposed the measure. Earlier this year, polling found that 82% of North Carolina voters favored legalizing medical cannabis, regardless of party affiliation. While it’s unclear if the polling numbers affected lawmakers’ attitudes toward the bill, Sen. Phil Berger indicated that new circumstances and information led many lawmakers to believe that “now is the time to do something, that maybe in the past you were opposed to.” Berger stated that this change indicates that members of the Senate are “doing what the people elected them to do.”
The bill would legalize marijuana for medical use in North Carolina, allowing patients with certain illnesses and a physician’s prescription to purchase cannabis and cannabis-infused products at state-regulated dispensaries. The bill would create an advisory committee and a new commission under the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services that would administer the program. The commission could award up to 10 medical marijuana licenses to businesses to grow and produce marijuana, and each of those 10 businesses could operate up to four dispensaries.
The measure now heads to the North Carolina House of Representatives, where it faces potentially steeper opposition.