CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A state lawmaker from Mecklenburg County believes he has more support than ever for a bill that would legalize medical marijuana in North Carolina. It could be the first state in the Southeast to pass such a bill.
This would be Rep. Kelly Alexander's fourth attempt at legalizing medical marijuana like 23 other states have already done. The Democrat said the bill would include regulations to track plants from production to sale.
"It becomes almost impossible to divert any of this product into the black market because every step of the process you are following a plant," Alexander said.
It would also make sure that the state is able to collect taxes on cannabis use, he said.
He cited reports that suggested North Carolina could stand to gain about $100 million dollars from that industry.
He said he has had conversations with Gov. Pat McCrory, the speaker of the House and Senate Pro Tem about his bill and he believes it has a good chance of passing this year. He points to the most support he's ever had in sponsoring the bill with 14 lawmakers are behind it.
"Though I know that it is going to be tough sledding, these top leaders are not taking this as a joke," said Alexander.
Alexander has some opponents in the Senate including Republican Sen. Jeff Tarte of Cornelius. He said he adamantly opposes the bill and he is concerned it will open the door to bigger problems.
"If you start playing with this and then you start getting into other things," said Tarte.
Cancer patient Patti Jackson said she also used to be against medical marijuana, but that was before an aggressive form of breast cancer attacked her bones after she had already battled cancer once before.
"I'm going to do everything to try and preserve my life," said Jackson.
She is stepping out in support of medical marijuana. Through her research online, she believes it to be a more affordable and natural treatment.
"I kind of feel like if you are able to give me OxyContin for my pain, then why can't I be given cannabis?" she said.
Medical marijuana advocates are expected to hold a rally at the State House in Raleigh next Thursday.
The bill has to go through several steps of approval before it becomes law.
It is still making its way through the House.
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