Medical Cannabis Legalization Bills Advance in North Carolina and South Carolina
By David M. Ullian
Mar 7, 2023
Medical cannabis legalization bills are advancing quickly through the North Carolina and South Carolina legislatures, lending much optimism to advocates, patients and prospective entrepreneurs that these bills will be enacted into law in the coming months.
North Carolina Compassionate Care Act
After being filed on January 25, 2023, by influential Republican State Senator Bill Rabon, a medical cannabis legalization bill advanced quickly through the North Carolina Senate Committee process and was recently approved by the full Senate.
S.B. 3, The North Carolina Compassionate Care Act (NCCCA) would allow registered patients with qualifying debilitating medical conditions to purchase cannabis and cannabis-infused products from licensed medical cannabis centers. The state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and a newly created Medical Cannabis Production Commission (MCPC) would be responsible for regulating and issuing licenses to ten medical cannabis suppliers that would be authorized to produce cannabis and cannabis-infused products in licensed production facilities, and dispense them to registered patients through medical cannabis centers. Once licensed by the MCPC, a medical cannabis supplier would be permitted to own and operate up to eight medical cannabis centers.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved an amended version of the medical cannabis legislation on February 21, 2023, before the Senate Finance Committee voted to advance a further amended version of the bill the following day. The legislation was subsequently approved by the Senate Rules and Operations Committee on February 23rd before heading to the floor of the Senate. In a 36-10 vote, the Senate passed the bill on March 1, 2023.
The bill will next head to the North Carolina House, which declined to consider a similar bill last year. However, in a recent interview released on February 15, Republican House Speaker Tim Moore stated that he believes more than 50% of lawmakers support medical cannabis reform and “the odds are more likely than not that something will happen.”
Public support for medical cannabis legalization in North Carolina also remains strong. According to a Meredith College poll conducted in February 2023, 73% of North Carolina voters support a law allowing the use of marijuana in North Carolina for medical purposes, including 64% of Republicans.
Considering the speed with which S.B. 3 advanced through various Senate Committees and was approved by the Senate, as well as statements made recently by the House Speaker about the probability of passing a medical cannabis bill, it seems more likely than ever that the NCCCA will be enacted into law in the coming months.
South Carolina Compassionate Care Act
After being formally introduced on January 19, 2023, by Republican State Senator Tom Davis, a revised version of a medical cannabis legalization bill continues to progress through the legislative process in the South Carolina Senate.
S. 423, The South Carolina Compassionate Care Act (SCCCA) would allow registered patients with qualifying debilitating medical conditions and a doctor’s recommendation to purchase a 14-day supply of infused and extracted cannabis products from licensed therapeutic cannabis pharmacies. The state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and the Board of Pharmacy would have responsibility for regulating and issuing licenses for a variety of medical cannabis establishments, including 15 cultivation center licenses, 30 processing facility licenses, 4 transporter licenses, 1 therapeutic cannabis pharmacy license for every 20 state-permitted pharmacies, and 5 independent testing laboratories.
The Senate Medical Affairs Committee approved a slightly amended version of the medical cannabis legislation on February 21, 2023, and the bill next heads to the Senate floor for consideration.
Support for medical cannabis legalization in South Carolina remains strong. According to a recent statewide survey from the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, more than two-thirds of South Carolina business leaders support legalizing medical marijuana.
Considering that the South Carolina Senate approved a similar medical cannabis legalization bill last year, and the current version of the legislation no longer includes tax-related provisions that caused the prior version of the bill to stall last year in the state House due to procedural concerns, there is good reason to be optimistic that the SCCCA will be signed into law in the coming months.
If you have any questions or would like to schedule a call to discuss the new medical cannabis legislation in North and/or South Carolina, please contact David M. Ullian via email or call 617-934-2121.