North Carolina Senate approves medical marijuana legalization

The North Carolina state Senate voted to pass medical marijuana legalization in an initial vote on Thursday.

The measure must pass the Senate a second time before heading to the state House, where Republicans repeatedly have blocked legal medical cannabis access.

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Marijuana regulations

State lawmakers on Wednesday added medical marijuana into a bill originally meant to regulate hemp.

The updated bill would legalize cannabis for people with a “debilitating medical condition,” the Associated Press reported.

That legislation passed the Senate with a vote of 33-9; nine Republicans voted in favor of the bill, according to AP.

The bill is scheduled for a second Senate vote on Monday.

Marijuana rescheduling

Republican state Sen. Danny Britt added medical marijuana to the hemp bill, saying that it’s necessary to “get ahead” of possible federal marijuana rescheduling, according to AP.

The Biden Administration formally proposed downgrading marijuana to Schedule 3 controlled substance last month.

The Department of Justice will accept public comments until mid-July.

Changes possible

In the meantime, the state House may make changes to the bill – or, it might choose to ditch the idea entirely.

On Thursday, state House Speaker Tim Moore was noncommittal when asked by AP about the bill’s chances.

In the past, Moore has indicated he’s open to medical marijuana but has declined to bring the issue to a vote, saying too many of his Republican colleagues are opposed.

Moore told the AP that he believes House lawmakers will “privately discuss” the bill next week.

Tribal influence

The bill comes as a Native American tribe, already the first and only seller of medical cannabis in the state, lays plans to open sales to all adults 21 and over.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians voted to legalize adult-use cannabis on its Qualla Boundary last year.

Medical marijuana sales launched on April 20.

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