Sweet Carolinas: Medical Cannabis Legalization Bills Introduced in North Carolina and South Carolina
By David M. Ullian
Feb 1, 2023
After failing to pass medical cannabis bills in 2022, legislators in North Carolina and South Carolina are preparing to consider bills that would legalize and regulate the production and use of medical cannabis in their respective states.
North Carolina Compassionate Care Act
On January 25, 2023, Republican State Senator Bill Rabon—who is considered one of the most influential and effective state legislators in North Carolina—filed S.B. 3, The North Carolina Compassionate Care Act (NCCCA) as the first bill in the Senate's new legislative session. A prior version of a medical cannabis legalization bill passed the state Senate by a vote of 36 - 7 vote in June 2022, but the House of Representatives declined to take up the legislation.
The NCCCA would allow registered patients with qualifying debilitating medical conditions and a physician's written certification to purchase up to a 30-day supply of 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 10 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 is permitted to own and operate up to eight medical cannabis centers. DHHS would also be required to license up to five independent testing laboratories.
Once the NCCCA goes into effect, DHHS must adopt rules implementing the law within 270 days. The MCPC must also adopt its implementing rules and establish the medical cannabis supply system within 270 days of the MCPC's first meeting, which must occur within 60 days of the law going into effect.
According to a SurveyUSA poll conducted in April 2022, 72% of North Carolina voters support medical cannabis legalization, including a majority of Republicans. During an interview in December 2022, Democratic Governor Roy Cooper stated that a medical marijuana legalization bill "has an opportunity to pass" in the upcoming legislative session.
Although only 10 medical cannabis supplier licenses would be available under the NCCCA, an operator that is able to secure one of these licenses would be well-positioned in this new medical cannabis jurisdiction—particularly considering that the state population exceeds 10.5 million, there is a range of qualifying debilitating medical conditions, and a range of permissible cannabis product types, including flower, provided for under the new law if it is ultimately enacted.
South Carolina Compassionate Care Act
On January 19, 2023, Republican State Senator Tom Davis formally introduced S. 423, The South Carolina Compassionate Care Act (SCCCA). This bill is a slightly revised version of a prior medical cannabis legalization bill that passed the state Senate by a 28 - 15 bipartisan vote in February 2022, but stalled in the state House of Representatives due to procedural concerns arising from tax-related provisions.
The SCCCA would allow registered patients with qualifying debilitating medical conditions and a physician's written certification to purchase up to 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, four transporter licenses, one therapeutic cannabis pharmacy license for every 20 state-permitted pharmacies, five independent testing laboratories, a sufficient number of integrated operator licenses as recommended by a DHEC commission, and any number of qualifying research facilities that meet established requirements.
Once signed into law, DHEC and the Board of Pharmacy would be required to promulgate regulations within one year, begin accepting applications for licensure within 30 days after the regulations become effective, and issue licenses within six months after the regulations become effective.
According to a Winthrop poll conducted in November 2022, 78% of South Carolinians support medical cannabis legalization, including a majority of Republicans. It is unclear whether Republican Governor Henry McMaster would support or oppose the current version of the SCCA.
With a population of over 5 million, and a range of qualifying debilitating medical conditions and available license types—including dozens of cannabis pharmacy licenses—under the proposed South Carolina Compassionate Care Act, the state of South Carolina appears to offer numerous opportunities for businesses interested in participating in this jurisdiction if the SCCCA is ultimately enacted into law.
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 at firstname.lastname@example.org or (617) 934-2121.