NC House Takes Step Towards Limited Decriminalization of Medical Marijuana

On behalf of Matthew Benton at Gottholm, Ralston & Benton, PLLC

North Carolina is set to pass a bill that will decriminalize marijuana oil as a treatment for epileptic seizures in children.

Governor Vows to Sign Into Law Bill That Would Allow Hemp oil for Treatment in Children

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory has vowed to sign into law a bill that would decriminalize the use of marijuana oil as a treatment for children who suffer from epileptic seizures, according to News3. The bill, HB 1220, has already based by 113 to 1 in the House 45 to 0 in the Senate. Under current law, possession of marijuana oil is a crime; however, recent marijuana decriminalization efforts in other states, particularly Colorado, have pushed North Carolina lawmakers to reconsider parts of the state's current drug policy.

Medical Treatment

HB 1220 will decriminalize possession of marijuana, or hemp, oil so long as it is used in the treatment of children with intractable epilepsy. Neurologists will have to be registered with the Intractable Epilepsy Alternative Treatment Pilot Study in order use marijuana oil from outside North Carolina in the treatment of patients.

Under current law, possession of marijuana oil is considered drug possession and, as such, is treated as a criminal act. As one lawmaker pointed out, the criminalization of marijuana oil makes little sense, especially given that "you could drink an entire bottle of this and never get high." As the News & Observer reported, children who suffer 100 to 200 seizures each week, many of whom currently rely on highly toxic psychotropic drugs, would be the most likely to benefit from this relaxed drug policy.

Families Move to Colorado

The bill has been praised by lawmakers and families with children who suffer from epileptic seizures. Gov. McCrory has also praised the House and Senate for crafting a bill that, according to him, balances compassionate medical treatment with common sense regulation. The bill also calls on North Carolina's universities to perform further research into marijuana oil for medical treatment.

The relaxed drug regulations come on the heels of marijuana decriminalization moves made by other states, especially Colorado. A number of North Carolina families with children who suffer from intractable epilepsy moved to Colorado following that state's decriminalization of marijuana. Once the bill has been signed into law, many of those families say they will be able to move back to North Carolina where their children can finally be treated for their seizures with hemp oil without fear of criminal prosecution.

Drug Possession

While the above story shows how drug laws are constantly evolving, especially as regards marijuana, it is important to remember that the law does not change the fact that drug possession is still a serious crime in North Carolina, including possession of marijuana. Anybody who has been charged with a drug crime, such as possession or trafficking, needs to talk with an experienced criminal defense lawyer right away. A highly qualified lawyer will work with a person charged with a drug offence to make sure his client's rights are protected and vigorously defended throughout the legal process.

Keywords: possession, marijuana, medical marijuana, decriminalization