WRAL News and SurveyUSA released a science poll earlier this month that found most North Carolina voters believe medical and recreational marijuana should be legalized in the state.
The poll found that 57% of voters believed that recreational use of marijuana should be legalized and 72% believed that medical use of marijuana should also be legal.
Only 18% of those polled felt medical marijuana should remain illegal, and 32% of voters polled said recreational use should remain illegal.
SurveyUSA randomly selected 2,500 North Carolina adults from April 6-10, 2,068 of whom are registered to vote in the state. The group conducted the interviews in several areas of North Carolina, including Charlotte and the west, Greensboro area, Raleigh area, southern and coastal communities. Lucid Holdings LLC of New Orleans selected a random sample of participants.
State legislators appear to be at least somewhat on the verge of legalizing medical marijuana. In August 2021, Senate Bill 711 remained in the remainder of the Rules and Procedures of the Senate Standing Committee. The bill calls for the legalization of prescription marijuana for a range of serious medical conditions, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder and to relieve pain or nausea at the end of life.
Lawmakers could resume consideration of the legislation when they meet on May 18. The legislature is then set to adjourn on June 30.
SB 711 would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana for the following conditions:
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
- Crohn’s disease
- sickle cell anemia
- Parkinson’s disease
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Multiple sclerosis
- Cachexia or wasting syndrome
- Severe or persistent nausea “related to end of life or palliative care”, or in a person who is bedridden or confined to the house
- A terminal illness when the patient’s remaining life expectancy is less than six months
- Any condition when the patient is in palliative care
North Carolina is one of 13 states that have not legalized marijuana in one way or another.
In Portland, Oregon, buying marijuana is as easy as buying a six-pack. In the Pacific Northwest, dispensaries are more like Apple stores than Circle K.
In Virginia, marijuana will be legal by summer and sold in stores for recreational use by 2024. Virginia is set to become the 19th state to fully legalize it.
Examining the Impacts of Marijuana Legalization
There are several concerns, whether you’re a proponent of decriminalizing marijuana, licensing it for medical purposes, or legalizing it.
Concerns include potential crime, impaired driving, traffic accidents, children and their use.
There is also the impact on the “moral fiber” of a state with deeply rooted values that did not include drugs. However, that includes alcohol, cigarettes, and whatever else they put in Chick-fil-A.
States like Colorado have been busy legalizing and regulating marijuana for over 20 years. WRAL News contacted Colorado Department of Justice Research Director Jack Reed.
“I think, honestly, from a crime perspective, one thing that a lot of people thought would happen would be the elimination of the black market, and that really didn’t happen,” Reed said.
A June 2021 article by the quarterly magazine Modern Farmer shows similar issues in California, Illinois, and Massachusetts, among other states that have legalized marijuana.
In many states where marijuana has become legal, the black market has grown. There are several reasons for this.
Consider these questions:
- Have you ever smoked weed in your life or been close to it?
- If so, where did you get it?
- Did you get it from a millionaire businessman?… Because in states where marijuana is legal, he’s the one selling it.
Paperwork can be complex and expensive, from packaging to the types of pesticides you can use on your crop.
In Colorado – by 2022 estimates – just to open a dispensary – not counting regulations and permits for growers, requires “start-up capital” of between $150,000 and $2 million.
Colorado collects 2.9% on marijuana sold in stores, 15% retail sales tax, and 15% excise tax. Colorado lawmakers are considering legislation that would raise the excise tax to 25%.
In 2021, Colorado sold more than $2 billion worth of marijuana through November and the state raised $423 million.
Legal marijuana is much more expensive to sell, and the drug dealers who sold dime bags to college students didn’t turn to the private sector. Instead, they moved their business to find demand.
“There are a lot of other places where it’s not legal,” Reed said. “So Colorado cannabis will go…it only goes east. Nothing goes west.
Nearly three-quarters of the country has either fully legalized marijuana or legalized the use of medical marijuana. In these states, illegal weed is still sold and grown in states like North Carolina because legal weed cannot cross state lines.
Economics is really quite simple – but – for some reason – lawmakers didn’t see it coming. It’s a lesson they learned for us – as we think about what to do – and how to do it. There is still much to learn from states that chart this uncharted territory.
In depth with Dan
Dan Haggerty is a reporter and presenter for WRAL. He won four regional Emmys for his anchoring and reporting in Fort Myers, Florida; Cleveland; San Diego; Dallas; Portland, Oregon and Raleigh, North Carolina. He is proud to call the Triangle his home.
Anyone with an idea for In Depth with Dan can email him at [email protected]