On Tuesday, Feb. 21, the Senate Judiciary Committee quickly approved an amended version of S.B. 3, the N.C. Compassionate Care Act. The bill will now go on to the Senate Finance Committee, and if it receives favorable report there, then to the Senate Rules Committee.

Before the voice vote, which appeared nearly unanimous by committee members, chairman of the committee, Sen. Buck Newton, R-Wilson, gave the floor to two of the bill’s primary sponsors, Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick; and Sen. Paul Lowe, D-Forsyth, who discussed its scope.

The two, as well as the third primary sponsor of the bill Sen. Michael Lee, R-New Hanover, who offered the amendments as a member of the committee, discussed some changes recommended by groups like the N.C. Sheriffs Association. They allowed time for Legislative Analysis Division staff to describe these changes.

The amendments did not appear to be controversial to the members and were all approved without discussion or dissent. The changes included disqualifying certain people from being able to be suppliers if they had been disqualified before, creating new crimes for fraudulently using a provider identification card and for carrying marijuana outside of an approved container while in public, adjusting how the oversight board is composed, and adjusting language on when a provider is required to carry their card.

Before the vote, there was time for public comment. Four men spoke briefly on the bill. Three of them requested that the members vote against allowing medical marijuana. Jere Royal from the North Carolina Family Policy Council said that there was a lot of discussion about how the drug could help veterans with PTSD, but he said there is no evidence yet to support this claim. He also said that the American Medical Association said marijuana actually was a major risk, not help, to mental health.

The speaker in favor said it was compassionate to provide this treatment to those who have been suffering in the dark. But he added that it would be more compassionate if the senators had allowed more than 10 locations across the 100 counties.