North Carolina Cannabis Lobby

We are so excited to share we have not one, but two medical cannabis bills on the table in North Carolina! I am sure you have seen us posting about the North Carolina Cannabis Lobby, and may be interested in how you can get involved or what we are even lobbying for. 

What is the “North Carolina Cannabis Lobby?” 

The North Carolina Cannabis Lobby is a group of farmers, business owners, and NC citizens championing for a comprehensive cannabis program in 2020. We are focused on The North Carolina Medical Cannabis Act HB 401 & HB 1143. 

The aggressive enforcement of cannabis possession laws needlessly arrest hundreds of thousands of people into the criminal justice system and wastes billions of taxpayers’ dollars. Nationwide, especially in North Carolina, it is carried out with staggering racial bias. It is time to take a much more serious look at our criminal justice system. Despite being a priority for police departments nationwide, the war on cannabis has failed to reduce cannabis use and availability and diverted resources that could be better invested in our communities.

According to a new report by the American Civil Liberties Union, North Carolina spent nearly $55 million enforcing cannabis possession laws in 2010, while statewide African Americans were arrested for cannabis possession at 3.4 times the rate of whites, despite comparable cannabis usage rates. 

Despite all the progress that medical cannabis has made in the US, 17 states remain without access to it, and North Carolina is one of them. However, that could change with these new, pending bills. House bill 401 and House bill 1143 are the exact same bill, and we are taking them as two opportunities to get this through in Raleigh. Simply Extract is 100% in favor of not just a medical program, but full legalization of this medicinal plant. 

Unfortunately after our recent battle to keep hemp flower legal,  we know the current state of things with our legislature, so we are gearing our efforts towards a medical bill here in the Old North State. 

North Carolina is a non initiative state, meaning voters aren’t allowed to place measures on the ballot, but since the numbers show that 80 percent of voters in the state support medical cannabis, there is pressure for something to be done. 

Last year, a group of cosponsors introduced HB 401, a comprehensive medical cannabis bill, into the legislature. Nothing happened last year, but it carried over to 2020. Since lawmakers reconvened on April 28, they will now be considering this measure again. HB 1143 was introduced last may and is the same bill. 

What’s in them? 

The bill would require: NC Department of Health and Human Services to issue a registry identification card to any qualified patient or designated caregiver.

The card would cost $10.

The bill creates a regulated medical cannabis supply system 

The bill would license the following entities under the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services:

  1. Medical Cannabis Center
  2. Producer of Medical Cannabis
  3. Producer of Cannabis Infused Products

All sales would be from a licensed Medical Cannabis Center.

These licensed entities would be required to pay monthly fees to the Department of Agriculture to operate regulations, registry, and the research programs.

Defenses for Qualified Patients and Caregivers

The bill allows individuals who do not have a registry identification cardholder to have affirmative defense under this section.

Physician Immunity

The bill states that a physician shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or any penalty for recommending the medical use of cannabis or providing written certification for the medical use of cannabis.

NC Cannabis Research Program 

The bill states that the UNC System would be responsible for undertaking presenting scientific research regarding the efficacy and safety of administering medical cannabis as a part of medical treatment.

Tax

The bill applies a 5% tax to be collected by a retailer for cannabis sales.

What do we like about the bill?

  1. The supply amount is 24 ounces or a 3 month supply allowed for patients. 
  2. It protects parents from having their children taken away. 
  3. It protects renters and job seekers from getting discriminated against because of their medical card. 
  4. For first-year licensees, a nonrefundable license fee in the amount of five thousand dollars ($5,000). 

If we are going to pass this bill and feel confident it is a fair program for all citizens, there are quite a few amendments that will need to be added. In our opinion those changes are as followed: 

Social Equity Programs

It’s no secret that the prior prohibition of cannabis disproportionately and adversely impacted people in communities of color. In an attempt to counter this history of disparity, many states and cities have implemented social equity programs in connection to the legalization of medical or adult cannabis use. 

This gives opportunities to individuals and communities who were previously harmed from inequitable cannabis arrests and convictions, a chance to jump into this new market. 

Ideas: Current Brainstorm from the NC Cannabis Lobby 

Reduced fees for Social Equity applicants: and a % of the tax to go toward economic and education programs in communities where drug laws were disproportionately enforced. This tax will go towards releasing non violent cannabis users, substance abuse prevention and addiction programs, funding public school education, health funds to lower the cost of medical cannabis for low income patients, and affordable housing. 

Adding a Decrim and Expungement Amendment: This would erase non violent Cannabis users’ criminal record, and release any prisoner currently in North Carolina prisons, if possession was below 1.5 ounces or they can prove the need for medical cannabis prior to the program being in place. It would no longer allow arrest or fines for any citizens with 1.5 ounces or under. We are still working on the best way to make these demands in a medical bill as not many cities or states have done this successfully. 

Paraphernalia Amendment: Cannabis Paraphernalia or any device used to consume cannabis will no longer be illegal to carry on person, in a vehicle, or at citizens place of residence. 

Farmer Protections: Any Producer of Medical Cannabis to a Medical Cannabis Center should be a resident of the state of North Carolina for 3 years or more. Any Producer of Medical Cannabis Flower or Extracts must have had their North Carolina Hemp or Processors License for at least one year before applying for a Cannabis license.  No farm can exceed 50 acres, keeping large commercial farms out of the state. 

Testing:  There is nothing in this bill about testing guidelines which can be harmful for the patient. All flower/extract/edibles should be tested by a third party to lab to ensure the safety of the consumer. Testing for mold, toxins, and potency should be a requirement to sell any product at a  Medical Cannabis Center. 

Home Cultivation: We feel like all patients should have the opportunity to grow their own medicine to reduce cost and travel. Patients unable to grow for themselves should have the opportunity to have a caregiver grow for them. Patients would still have to obtain a home grow license for a small fee and register with the state. Patients would be allowed to cultivate no more than six flowering cannabis plants or supply for 3 months.

No one should be disqualified from becoming a grower or a medical center based on prior criminal convictions. 

We understand the likelihood of a perfect bill is not as high as we’d like in North Carolina. There is a lot of compromise and strategy in these amendments to make this bill fair but still passable. As a company we feel like this plant should be as free as a tomato. Every step matters as we push to get this plant freed. Have thoughts, opinions, frustrations on this legislation? Join the North Carolina Cannabis Lobby and help us get this done the right way!

<3 The Simply Team   

Last Prisoner Project

Hello friends! We have had so much going on at the lab that it’s been hard to sit down and write a blog. It’s been 6 months of grinding away at extraction with our new equipment in the lab, figuring out our learning curve, and getting to know the farmers in the region.

As many of you know, last year was a rollercoaster for the hemp industry in North Carolina as we were fighting the SB315 Farm Bill which included a very troubling smokable hemp ban. There will be more on this to come in another blog, but basically the Simply team fought very hard along with other industry leaders to get this bill pushed back. It has recently been gutted of all hemp provisions! A huge win for NC hemp.

A smokable hemp ban would have been absolutely hard on the hemp farmers that have poured so much time and money in their crops, yes. But also – what was troubling about this bill and the way that legislators were talking about it, is that they were so concerned about the bill defacto legalizing all cannabis in the state. We were appalled to hear old school conservative legislators like Jimmy Dickson spewing Reefer Madness rhetoric, who was so concerned about law enforcement’s ability to properly distinguish between hemp and marijuana, often throwing them both together as “gateway drugs infesting our community”. This type of thinking is dangerous not only to the economy of the south but to Black and Brown communities as well. We all know that minorities are disproportionately targeted by law enforcement and although we weren’t surprised, we were furious at the rhetoric being thrown around surrounding cannabis by the legislators that are supposed to represent us.

A couple months ago, Melanie stumbled upon a new advocacy organization that touches on this very topic. In fact, they dont just touch on it – they get in there and release non-violent cannabis prisoners! They are called the Last Prisoner Project and their goal is to release every single last cannabis prisoner on the planet.

Taken from their website:

“As the United States moves away from the criminalization of
cannabis, giving rise to a major new industry, there remains
the fundamental injustice inflicted upon those who have
suffered criminal convictions and the consequences of those
convictions. Through intervention, advocacy, and awareness
campaigns the Last Prisoner Project works to redress the
past and continuing harms of these unjust laws and policies.

Our approach: Full freedom

Intervention: The Last Prisoner Project focuses on three key criminal justice
reform initiatives: clemency, expungement, and reentry. A core
focus of the project will be to release incarcerated individuals.
Data shows, however, that released inmates are destined to
fail without the proper resources in place. Reentry can be
incredibly difficult for released prisoners, and two- thirds of
released prisoners will be arrested again within three years.
Additionally, a criminal record can be a significant barrier to
employment, housing, financial assistance, and more.

Advocacy: LPP is seizing on the current momentum surrounding criminal
justice reform to promote legislation that ensures that all
cannabis prisoners walk free. The Last Prisoner Project
advocates on the state and federal level in the U.S. and around
the globe on behalf of those criminalized for the use of
cannabis.

Awareness: The Project also leverages connections with celebrity
influencers, entertainers, and musicians to spread public
awareness about our mission. We host events as well as
participate in industry conferences, trade shows, and music
festivals to educate citizens and industry participants about
the problem and our reform efforts.”

If you’re interested in supporting this cause, feel free to purchase a donation on our website! If you are local to Asheville, there are 4 dispensaries with a convenient donation box:

Carolina Hemp Company – 290 Haywood Rd #002, Asheville, NC 28806
Asheville Dispensary – 919 Haywood Rd #111, Asheville, NC 28806
Two Moons CBD South – 2144 Hendersonville Rd suite e, Arden, NC 28704 Asheville Hemp Farms – 28 N Lexington Ave, Asheville, NC 28801

Visit their website at www.lastprisonerproject.org