WRAL News and SurveyUSA published a scientific poll earlier this month that found most North Carolina voters believe medical and recreational marijuana should be legalized in the state.
The poll found 57% of voters felt recreational use of marijuana should be legalized and 72% felt the medical use of marijuana should also be legal.
Only 18% of those polled felt medical marijuana should remain against the law and 32% of voters polled said recreational use should remain illegal.
SurveyUSA randomly selected 2,500 North Carolina adults from April 6-10, of which 2,068 are registered to vote in the state. The group conducted the interviews in several regions of North Carolina, including Charlotte and west, the Greensboro area, the Raleigh area, southern and coastal communities. Lucid Holdings LLC of New Orleans selected a random sample of participants.
State lawmakers appear to be at least somewhat close to legalizing medical marijuana. In August 2021, Senate Bill 711 remained in the remained in the Rules and Operations of the Senate Standing Committee. The bill calls for the legalization of prescription marijuana for a range of serious medical problems, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder and to help end-of-life pain or nausea.
Lawmakers could resume consideration of the legislation when they convene on May 18. The legislature is then set to adjourn on June 30.
SB 711 would let doctors 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 hospice care,” or in someone who is bedridden or homebound
- A terminal illness when the patient’s remaining life expectancy is less than six months
- Any condition when the patient is in hospice care
North Carolina is one of 13 states that hasn’t legalized marijuana in one way or another.
In Portland, Oregon, buying marijuana is easy as buying a six-pack. In the Pacific Northwest, dispensaries look more like Apple stores than Circle K.
In Virginia, marijuana will be legal by the 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 legalizing marijuana
There are several concerns whether you’re a proponent of decriminalizing marijuana, authorizing it for medical use or legalizing it.
Concerns include potential crime, impaired driving, traffic crashes, kids and their usage.
There’s also the impact on “moral fiber” of a state with deeply-rooted values that have not included drugs. However, it does include alcohol, cigarettes and whatever they put in Chick-fil-A.
States like Colorado have dealt with how to legalize and regulate marijuana for more than 20 years. WRAL News reached out to Colorado Department of Justice Research Director Jack Reed.
“I think that, honestly, from a crime point of view, one thing that I think many people thought would happen would be an elimination of the black market, and that really did not happen,” Reed said.
A story published in June 2021 by quarterly magazine Modern Farmer shows similar problems 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 why.
Consider these questions:
- Have you ever smoked weed in your life or been around it?
- If so, where did you get it?
- Did you get it from a millionaire businessman?… Because in states where marijuana is legal, that’s who is selling it.
The red tape can be complex and expensive from packaging to the kinds of pesticides you can use on your crop.
In Colorado – according to the 2022 estimates – just to open a dispensary – not counting the regulations and permits for growers, you need “start-up capital” between $150,000 and $2 million.
Colorado collects 2.9% on marijuana sold in stores, 15% in retail sale tax an another 15% in excise tax. Colorado lawmakers are considering legislation that would increase the exise tax to 25%.
In 2021, Colorado sold more than $2 billion of marijuana through November and the state raked in $423 million.
Legal marijuana is much more expensive to sell, and the drug dealers who sold dime bags to college students didn’t pivot into the private sector. Instead, they shifted their business to find the demand.
“There’s a lot of other places where it is not legal,” Reed said. “So, Colorado cannabis will go… it only goes east. Nothing goes West.”
Nearly three-fourths of the country have either completely legalized marijuana or legalized the usage of medical marijuana. In those states, illegal weed is still being sold and grown to states like North Carolina because legal weed can’t cross state lines.
The economics are really quite simple – but – for one reason or another – lawmakers didn’t see this coming. It’s a lesson they learned for us – as we consider what to do – and how to do it. There’s still a lots to learn from the states charting this uncharted territory.
In Depth With Dan
Dan Haggerty is a reporter and anchor for WRAL. He’s won four regional Emmy awards for his anchoring and reporting in in Fort Myers, Florida; Cleveland; San Diego; Dallas; Portland, Oregon and Raleigh, North Carolina. He is proud to call the Triangle home.
Anyone who has an idea for In Depth with Dan can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.