LETTER: The NCGA’s loss is the EBCI’s gain

by Sep 26, 2023OPINIONS0 comments

With Governor Roy Cooper agreeing to, but not signing the State Budget, the NCGA (North Carolina General Assembly) can now begin to close shop for the 2023 legislative session. There are still several bills the GOP will push through with their supermajority control during these final days. SB3, The Compassionate Care Act, will not be one of those bills.

Despite it passing the NC Senate twice, the House GOP caucus refuses to give it the majority votes it needs to be considered for a committee hearing.  The additional votes needed to pass it through the GOP caucus are a battle that can still be fought in 2024, but it will be against the same opponents. Combined with the stress of an election year it is not likely their stance on cannabis will change by then.

Even if SB3 gets brought back to life in 2024 and passes the House, there’s still the projected “rollout” period.  The conservative estimate from the bill’s two main sponsors, Senators Rabon and Lowe, is two to four years to install the infrastructure needed for a medicinal program.

That leaves a 2- to 4-year period of continued cannabis prohibition in North Carolina.  The compassion to open their program to all qualifying North Carolina residents over the age of 21 allows the EBCI to turn the NCGA’s loss into their gain.  People will travel for hours, and plan monthly vacations around their trips to the dispensary, all to purchase legal cannabis for medicinal and recreational needs.

This immense customer base, in addition to no competition, will allow the EBCI Cannabis program to grow to heights only achieved by a few other entities in the cannabis industry so far.  There’s also the cannabis tourism industry to consider. An industry that has brought tremendous social and economic prosperity to legal states, and one of the EBCI will be the creators and sole benefactors here in North Carolina.

Will the State try to fight against this?  The Stop the Pot Act is a sign of what’s to come. Thankfully it doesn’t have the support to move forward, making their 10 percent withholding of federal funds to federally recognized tribes just an empty threat. There will be more attempts made, despite the current polls showing that 82 percent of North Carolina residents are in favor of cannabis legalization.  For some GOP members in the NCGA, preventing cannabis legalization of any kind in North Carolina will be the hill they die on politically.

For too long in North Carolina, cannabis patients have been forced to die in the dark.  Kept out of the light by a wall erected by the NCGA, fortified by decades of misinformation and outdated beliefs.  Thankfully the EBCI has chosen to tear down that wall, and finally allow those dying in the dark to feel the sun on their face again.

Chris Suttle

Chapel Hill, N.C.