North Carolina medical cannabis bill advances

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A bill to legalize the cultivation and sale of medical cannabis in North Carolina is advancing through the Republican-controlled state Legislature with support from the state’s Democratic governor.

Senate Bill 3, the NC Compassionate Care Act, cleared a state Senate committee last week and could go to the floor of the full Senate for a vote in the coming weeks, Asheville TV station WLOS reported.

If passed by both houses of the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper, the bill would allow people suffering from a familiar list of conditions – including AIDS, cancer and PTSD – to legally access marijuana with permission from a doctor.

The Senate passed a similar version of the bill last year. That bill died in the state House of Representatives without a vote.

Prospects this year are much improved, with Cooper’s signature nearly guaranteed and chances of passage in the House “better,” WLOS reported.

For now, North Carolina is one of only 11 states in the country without a viable medical cannabis program.

However, advocates and activists say the bill is too friendly to big business.

According to a state legislative analysis, the bill caps the total number of MMJ producers allowed in the state at 10.

Each producer would be allowed to operate up to eight dispensaries, called medical cannabis centers.

In other states, license caps have been blamed in part for ownership and opportunity disparities in the marijuana industry.

If passed, the first sale could occur in roughly two years, according to the legislative analysis.