On Oct. 22, 2018, a group of North Carolina daily newspapers published results from a survey that asked “influential” and “powerful North Carolinians” about cannabis reform, among other things.

“A survey of some of North Carolina‚Äôs most influential people in politics, business and society found that many of them support ending the criminalization of marijuana,” the dailies report, adding that the support comes in varying degrees.

Read more here: https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/influencers/article220314765.html#storylink=cpy

[Learn more about the survey here.]

://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/influencers/article220314765.html#storylink=cpy

Remember:

The most powerful people in North Carolina are The People.

The fact that the daily newspaper group is pushing state politicians, and others, to comment on cannabis is a big deal, but to finally get some state Republicans on the record is a bigger deal.

More importantly, new polling data indicates national, bipartisan support for cannabis reform is at an all-time high — and that support comes from The People.

The People want pot

According to a Gallup poll released today, support for cannabis reform is at an all-time high — 66 percent, and that increased support crosses party lines.

In North Carolina, according to a 2017 Elon University poll, 80 percent of respondents support legalizing cannabis for medical purposes.

Of those, the Elon University press release states, “Democrats and independent voters are the most likely to say they support medical marijuana legalization, with 83 percent of each group on board, while 73 percent of Republicans approve of such a move.”

Perhaps the most critical news in both polls is that support for legalization from Republicans is on the rise.

A Gallup poll released today, Oct. 22, 2018, not only indicates that support for the termination of cannabis prohibition continues to rise and be non-partisan, it’s at an all-time high — 66 percent nationwide.

Results from a 2017 Elon University survey of North Carolina citizens.

N.C. cannabis reform historically a non-starter

I began asking around this past spring after N.C. state Rep. Kelly Alexander, Jr. filed House Bill 994, simply titled “Reform Marijuana Laws.”

At the time, most of the politicians I spoke to had no comment and some said they didn’t need to have a comment because there wasn’t support in the N.C. General Assembly for cannabis reform.

Alexander, a Charlotte Democrat representing District 107, has filed cannabis reform bills in the NCGA for about a decade, and he’s not the first state politician to try.

Most of the cannabis reform bills introduced in the NCGA are referred to committee and never mentioned again except by the media and advocates. None of the bills have been debated by the General Assembly on the floor of the Senate or the House of Representatives.

I’m hearing N.C. Republicans talking about cannabis for veterans and those who are ill; I’m hearing them thinking out loud about the potential tax revenue; I’m hearing them begin the public conversation … and I think that’s good.

Where does the White House stand on cannabis?

The president is purportedly ready to make a move on cannabis at the federal level after the midterm elections, though his administration has stated its current call for public comments on cannabis is a dead end.

The 21-day public comment period ends Oct. 31, 2018, and was triggered by the World Health Organization’s review of cannabis; that meeting will take place in mid-November.

President Trump has indicated support for cannabis reform in the past, particularly where States’ Rights are concerned.

However, in August, Buzzfeed News reported the existence of a Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee formed by the Trump White House.

The White House has secretly amassed a committee of federal agencies from across the government to combat public support for marijuana and cast state legalization measures in a negative light, while attempting to portray the drug as a national threat, according to interviews with agency staff and documents obtained by BuzzFeed News.

Donald Trump’s support for cannabis is questionable. Above is a Fox News report from June 11, 2018. Below is a CBS News report from Sept. 5, 2018. The messages are opposites, though both segments offer thought-provoking discussion.

A subtle shift

We’re beginning to see the tide turn in North Carolina when it comes to cannabis reform. Or, at last we’ve progressed from “no comment” to thoughtful comment.

Here’s an example of a nice “no” to cannabis reform from Republican Marilyn Brown via a WLOS survey response. Brown is running for the District 116 House of Representatives seat in Buncombe County.

Do you believe marijuana should be legal either medicinally or recreationally or both?

[Brown]: There are a lot of other states that are experimenting with the taxation, usage, and medicinal value of marijuana. I am always open to new facts and learning to look at things in new and different ways. I like the approach of one state which has legalized medicinal marijuana by taking small steps at a time by focusing on one disease manufactured in highly secure facility with the lowest amount of THC possible to lower chances of addiction, however I do not think that North Carolina is ready for the legalization of marijuana yet.

Brown’s response is a shift from pre-primary days earlier this year when Republican candidates were purportedly threatened with a more conservative challenger if they took a stance on cannabis.

2019 legislative session

Alexander says he will introduce another cannabis reform bill in the N.C. House of Representatives when the General Assembly’s long session begins in January 2019. And word is there will be a companion bill in the Senate. 

During the legislature’s break, Alexander served as the first guest on the Carolina Cannabis News podcast where he announced the creation of the General Assembly’s Legislative Cannabis Caucus.

Listen to state Rep. Kelly Alexander, Jr. (D-107, Charlotte) explain the history of cannabis reform in North Carolina in Carolina Cannabis News’ first podcast episode. He also tried to unravel why Republicans have avoided the cannabis discussion in the statehouse and explains how you can help move the needle on cannabis reform.

Still, given the NCGA’s history with cannabis bills, I believe it is too much to expect that the state will end cannabis prohibition next year.

But you never know; the General Assembly has been full of surprises in recent history. And, the truth is, a hearing in a committee or a floor debate will be miles ahead of where the state has landed on cannabis reform in previous legislative sessions.

BY Rhiannon Fionn

BY Rhiannon Fionn

Editor & Publisher

Rhiannon Fionn is an award-winning journalist based in Charlotte, N.C.