Nags Head backs resolution, but odds are long
In January, the Nags Head Board of Commissioners approved a resolution throwing its support behind a movement to legalize the use of medicinal marijuana in the state. A month later, a bill was introduced in the North Carolina General Assembly to decriminalize small amounts of the drug, and another state lawmaker is expected to propose legislation legalizing its medical use in the near future.
Does this mean that North Carolina is on the brink of easing marijuana laws or of joining 33 other states that have legalized the medical use of cannabis? Not according to the head of an organization group that advocates legalization and monitors the situation closely.
“Over the last ten years, twenty-three bills have been introduced and our legislature has not moved on them,” said Abner Brown, the executive director of NC NORML. “I’ve seen a lot of opposition, and don’t think it is really changed a lot. [The state] is still under that prohibition mentality.”
Opponents of legalizing marijuana, either for medicinal or recreational purposes, often argue that it is a gateway drug, is addictive and creates harmful secondhand smoke. Still, a 2017 Elon University poll found that 80 percent of North Carolina respondents supported medicinal marijuana use, while a considerably smaller, but substantial, 45 percent supported legalizing its recreational use.
In Raleigh, State Rep. Kelly Alexander (D-Mecklenburg), a longtime advocate for legalizing medical marijuana in the state, is expected to submit a bill to that effect in the next few weeks, his office told the Sentinel. Alexander did not respond to several Sentinel phone calls seeking additional comment.
In addition, Senate Bill 58 was introduced in mid-February by Sen. Paul Lowe of Forsythe County and would decriminalize possession of up to three ounces of marijuana.
In unanimously passing its resolution — the first of its kind in Dare County — the Nags Head Commissioners cited the drug’s effectiveness in treating chronic pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea, multiple sclerosis and other health conditions. The resolution urged the North Carolina General Assembly to adopt legislation that would grant doctors the right to prescribe it.
Speaking about legalizing medicinal marijuana, Nags Head Mayor Pro Tem Susie Walters told the Sentinel that, “North Carolina is really behind the curve. It seems that if it is something that helps [alleviate pain], and it’s not harmful, why not go ahead and allow it…For me, there really is no reason not to. It’s the humane and useful thing to do.”
Walters said the board took up the resolution after being contacted by a town resident about the issue. The resolution cites a comprehensive study by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academic Press that cannabis is effective treatment for a number of ailments, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder among veterans. It also cites the highly addictive and abusive nature of prescribed drugs such as opioids and benzodiazepines.
Proponents of legalizing medicinal marijuana have argued that cannabis can serve as an effective alternative to those synthetic painkillers and sedatives.
Nags Head Mayor Ben Cahoon noted that both his parents died of cancer and suffered greatly. “If I had available something that would have either relieved their pain or improved their appetite, I’d be one hundred percent in favor of whatever worked,” he told the Sentinel in an interview. “When the medical community says it’s helpful to people, I don’t understand why we would stand in the way of that.”