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North Carolina medical marijuana bill likely dead for this year, House speaker says

House Speaker Tim Moore walks on the floor Tuesday, May 16, 2023, in Raleigh, N.C.
Chris Seward
House Speaker Tim Moore walks on the floor Tuesday, May 16, 2023, in Raleigh, N.C.

Legislation that would legalize marijuana use for medicinal purposes in North Carolina is probably dead for the rest of this year's General Assembly session, House Speaker Tim Moore said Tuesday, citing opposition by many fellow Republicans in his chamber.

A bill that would lay out the structure for patients with serious and life-ending illnesses to lawfully obtain cannabis and smoke or consume it passed the Senate by a wide margin over four months ago. But it has idled in the House ever since, save for a committee hearing on the measure in early June.

House Republicans have debated the idea among themselves. Moore said he agreed with recent public comments from House Majority John Bell of Wayne County, who said in part there wasn't enough support for the bill to advance further.

The WUNC Politics Podcast is a free-flowing discussion of what we're hearing in the back hallways of the General Assembly and on the campaign trail across North Carolina.

Moore said there's a rule within the House Republican Caucus that a majority of its members must be willing to vote for a bill on the House floor for it to be heard — even if it could pass the 120-seat chamber with Democratic support.

Complying with the rule “would require a number of House members who’ve taken a position of ‘no’ to literally switch their position to want to vote for it, and I just don’t see that happening," Moore told reporters.

Bell told Spectrum News 1 that he suspects the legalization issue will come up during next year’s chief legislative session, likely to begin in May.

“There’s passion on both sides,” Bell said. “We have members of our caucus that are 100% supportive of it, and we have other members that are 100% against it.”

In bipartisan votes, senators have passed the measure's contents twice since June 2022, leading to frustrations among supporters seeking House action.

Senators tried to initiate pressure on the House two weeks ago. Senate Rules Chairman Bill Rabon of Brunswick County, the marijuana bill's chief sponsor, tacked a floor amendment onto an unrelated health care bill favored by the House that said it couldn't become law unless his bill also became law.

Legislative leaders are aiming to adjourn later this month. Although Rabon's parliamentary maneuver could be perceived by House members as a shot across the bow in end-of-session negotiations, Moore said it has no influence on the medical marijuana bill stalling this year.

“That was going to be the outcome either way,” Moore said.

The medical use of cannabis products is permitted in 38 states and the District of Columbia, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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