Just days after the North Carolina Senate gave final approval on a medical cannabis legalization bill, the House passed legislation that would legalize only THC medications that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The House voted, 92-9, on June 8 to approve Senate Bill 448, which would allow FDA-approved prescription drugs containing cannabis and THC to be sold and used in North Carolina, according to The Carolina Journal.
S.B. 448’s passage could signal that a separate Senate-approved bill to legalize medical cannabis—regardless of FDA approval—is dead for the year.
That bill, Senate Bill 711 or the Compassionate Care Act, would allow North Carolina officials to license 10 businesses to grow and process medical cannabis, as well as 80 dispensaries to sell it to qualifying patients with a short list of medical conditions, including cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Sen. Jim Burgin, R-Harnett, one of the S.B. 448’s sponsors, told The Carolina Journal that his legislation will help the public more quickly access FDA-approved drugs.
Burgin, also the chair of the Senate’s Health Care Committee and Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee, said there are more THC medications in the pipeline, but it is important to have them tested through the FDA and approved to treat some of the qualifying conditions outlined in the Compassionate Care Act, according to The Carolina Journal.
“My big concern is we are going to introduce a product that is going to be another smoking issue,” Burgin told the news outlet. “We spent billions of dollars to [get people] to stop smoking and stop the harmful effects of smoking, and now we are going to reintroduce smoking potentially to a big part of the population, and that concerns me.”
During the June 8 House debate on S.B. 448, Rep. Larry Pitman, R-Cabarrus, attempted to amend the legislation to add an amendment to North Carolina’s Controlled Substances Act that would keep cannabis illegal in the state, regardless of any action by the FDA or federal government, The Carolina Journal reported.
The amendment was ruled out of order after Rep. Pat McElraft, R-Carteret, encouraged lawmakers to vote it down on the grounds that it would make Epidiolex illegal. (Epidiolex, a cannabis-derived medication to treat seizure disorders in children, gained federal approval in 2018.)
The House’s approval of S.B. 448 sends it to Gov. Roy Cooper, who can sign it, veto it or allow it to become law with no action, The Carolina Journal reported.