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Bills signed by Gov. Cooper address arson, drugs, insurance

Gov. Roy Cooper Official Twitter

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed three bills into law Tuesday, including one that increases arson punishments and another that supporters say will get federally approved medicines that contain marijuana or its active ingredient quicker to those who need them.

The bills are the first the Democratic governor has received — and signed — since the legislature's annual work session began four weeks ago. Debate on all three measures began last year.

The prescription drug bill alters the state's Controlled Substances Act so that a drug containing marijuana and tetrahydrocannabinols, or THC, automatically becomes lawful in North Carolina if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the drug. The Drug Enforcement Administration also would have to act. The process still would allow a state commission to block the drug's use with a formal objection.

The change does not legalize marijuana for general use. Bill supporters say rather it streamlines the process for approved drugs like those that help people with epileptic seizures. A 2014 state law permitted the use of hemp extract, which contains extremely low levels of THC — the ingredient in marijuana that generates a user's high — for some epilepsy treatment.

A proposed House amendment that would have stated that marijuana “shall not be legalized” in the state, regardless of any federal government action, was ruled out of order. The House voted 92-9 for the final bill last week. The Senate vote in 2021 was unanimous.

The third bill Cooper signed made changes to state laws governing captive insurance companies, which are subsidiaries of a parent company that is being insured.

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