Our Opinion: Compassionate Care Act is about patients, not pot | The Wilson Times
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Our Opinion: Compassionate Care Act is about patients, not pot

Posted on May 12, 2022

OpinionEditorials
No one would dare deprive a cancer patient of pain medication or question his morals for filling a lawful prescription, and that’s despite opioids’ grave potential for harm. Why should North Carolina call him a criminal for using medical cannabis?

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No one would dare deprive a cancer patient of pain medication or question his morals for filling a lawful prescription, and that’s despite opioids’ grave potential for harm. Why should North Carolina call him a criminal for using medical cannabis?

North Carolina’s first legal marijuana plants could sprout from Wilson County soil if lawmakers approve a medical cannabis bill, as DEL Hemp Farm owner Delmer Langley is a prime candidate to become a state-licensed grower.

That could be a boon for local agriculture, a major segment of Wilson’s economy, but revenue, research and bragging rights aren’t reason enough to support the N.C. Compassionate Care Act.

As Senate Bill 711’s title implies, this is a health care issue. Floor debates in the General Assembly and discussions with local stakeholders should center on patients’ needs rather than personal views about marijuana use, perspectives on the drug war or even the potential economic impact.

“We can relieve citizens by passing this bill,” state Rep. Linda Cooper-Suggs told Times reporter Drew C. Wilson for a front-page story in Tuesday’s edition. “Medical marijuana can bring needed pain relief to some patients if prescribed and used properly, and it has to be regulated.”

Those citizens are people like John Cameron of Sims. A pancreatic cancer survivor, Cameron used marijuana to alleviate pain and restore his appetite following a surgery that removed his duodenum, gallbladder, small intestine, 12 lymph nodes and a third of his pancreas. He became diabetic after the operation, and his weight dropped to 150 pounds.

Smoking cannabis for its therapeutic benefits helped Cameron fill out his frame. He packed on 35 pounds and maintained a healthy weight despite surgical complications.

“The marijuana, contrary to all the politicians’ stupidity, it cuts down on pain,” Cameron told the Times in December 2012. “It helps regulate my blood sugar.”

We interviewed Cameron after his natural medicine got him on the wrong side of the law. Wilson County sheriff’s deputies found marijuana in his car during a traffic stop, then searched his home and seized the rest of his supply.

Cameron used the drug for a legitimate purpose, but deputies were only doing their job. Law enforcement officers don’t choose which statutes to enforce. The General Assembly tied their hands.

In 2016, the American Legion passed a resolution urging Congress to remove marijuana from the feds’ list of Schedule I drugs. The Controlled Substances Act’s most restrictive classification prevents most clinical studies and frustrates scientists’ efforts to research the plant. Veterans’ advocates said cannabis could help wounded warriors and might ease symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

“These are not people who are looking to get high,” Wilson Committee on Patriotism Chairman Ray Chambers told the Times for a story that year. “They are people who are looking for relief from pain. I just feel like any medication that’s available that can help veterans, the government owes it to veterans to pursue it.”

Perry Parks is one of those veterans. The retired Army helicopter pilot became executive director of the N.C. Cannabis Patients Network soon after switching from opioid painkillers to marijuana.

“The VA’s first reaction is to fill you full of pills,” Parks told us in 2016. “They start with hydrocodone. But there are no long-term benefits. There are long-term dangers.”

Opioid overdoses caused more than 107,000 deaths in 2021, according to National Center for Health Statistics figures released Wednesday, a 15% increase from the 2020 death toll.

Marijuana doesn’t pose that risk. Only one death has ever been attributed to THC overdose, with the victim vaping a highly concentrated form of THC oil. In all the world’s medical literature, there’s no evidence linking the cannabis flower itself to so much as a single fatality.

North Carolina wouldn’t be a guinea pig. Medical marijuana is legal in 36 other states and the District of Columbia. Wilson is about an hour’s drive from the Virginia state line, and north of that border, cannabis is legal for both medicinal and recreational use.

Despite gaining widespread acceptance and losing some of its “stoner” stigma, marijuana remains controversial here. Some still consider it a gateway drug. Leave those debates aside, because the Compassionate Care Act isn’t a recreational-use bill. It would limit access to people with serious medical conditions.

No one would dare deprive a cancer patient of pain medication or question his morals for filling a lawful prescription, and that’s despite opioids’ grave potential for harm. Why should North Carolina call him a criminal for using medical cannabis?

“There may well be reasons to allow marijuana to be used for the treatment of pain and other conditions under a tightly controlled set of regulations, but those conditions need to be clearly spelled out,” this editorial page reasoned in June 2009.

The Compassionate Care Act passes that test. Our state legislators should enact it.

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