Republican leaders in the North Carolina Senate wasted no time in filing a new bill to legalize medical marijuana. It was the first bill filed in the Senate Wednesday as the General Assembly met for the first day of the session.

The bipartisan bill went through months of debate and discussion last year. It passed through the Senate but was not able to make it through the House. With a new session, the bill will have to start from the beginning, but many of the thorny issues have already been hammered out.

What You Need To Know

  •  A new bill to legalize medical marijuana was filed Wednesday in the North Carolina Senate as they met for the first day of the session

  • The bill mirrors legislation that passed the Senate last year but did not make it though the state House

  • The bill would legalize medical marijuana for a list of conditions, including cancer, HIV/AIDS and some patients with PTSD

  • The N.C. Compassionate Care Act will have to start from the beginning in the Senate, where it has two high-profile Republican sponsors

The new bill bears the same name as last year’s: The North Carolina Compassionate Care Act. Republican Sens. Bill Rabon and Michael Lee filed the bill with Democratic Sen. Paul Lowe. All three are longtime members of the North Carolina Senate and hold sway in their parties.

Thirty-nine states have legal medical marijuana programs and 21 have legalized recreational weed. 

The bill, SB3, picks up where the debate left off last year. The Senate sponsors of the bill touted the proposal as having some of the tightest medical marijuana regulations in the country.

The North Carolina bill includes tight controls over who can grow and sell medical marijuana in the state. The regulations go so far as to where dispensaries can set up shop and what their signage and packaging can look like.

If passed, the law would create new commissions to oversee the companies growing and distributing the marijuana. There would also be tight standards for doctors who can prescribe pot to patients.

The bill lists the conditions that patients could receive a marijuana prescription for:

  • Cancer
  • Epilepsy
  • ALS
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Cachexia or wasting syndrome
  • Severe or persistent nausea for someone who is not pregnant, related to end-of-life or hospice care, or who is bedridden or homebound because of a condition
  • A terminal illness when the patient's remaining life expectancy is less than six months
  • A condition resulting in the individual receiving hospice care
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

That last one, PTSD, was a big topic for debate last year. The bill sponsors initially did not include PTSD patients as eligible for medical marijuana. In public hearings, the Senate heard from multiple veterans who spoke about how marijuana helped them get through their trauma.

The bill last year came out with a relatively restrictive definition for PTSD patients who could get pot, and that is included in this new bill.

“Post-traumatic stress disorder, subject to evidence that an applicant experienced one or more traumatic events. Acceptable evidence shall include, but is not limited to, proof of military service in an active combat zone, that the person was the victim of a violent or sexual crime, or that the person was a first responder. Details of the trauma shall not be required,” the bill states.

The bill also leaves it open to a new Compassionate Use Advisory Board to add more conditions to the list.

Last year, the North Carolina General Assembly got closer than it ever has to legalizing medical marijuana, passing the Senate with strong bipartisan support. But that doesn’t mean it will be clear sailing this year.

The bill will still have to get through several committees in the Senate before it can come up for a vote on the floor. Then it will be up to the House, where its fate is less certain.