Governor Cooper’s Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice, led by Attorney General Josh Stein and NC Supreme Court Associate Justice Anita Earls, will submit their recommendations by December 1, 2020. Their final recommendations must address the more than 185,000 arrests for marijuana possession between 2008-2018, costing residents of North Carolina up to an estimated $300 million, plus future potential costs arising from subsequent arrests. A majority of US residents have access to medical cannabis while NC residents, including many medical users, risk arrest. 

Although consumption of marijuana by white Americans and black Americans is similar, black residents are charged almost 4 times as often. Truth be told, marijuana prohibition is a gateway to making biased arrests, and does not stop the flow of more nefarious drugs. 

North Carolina’s prohibition of marijuana is totally unreasonable and goes against current research findings. The Mayo Clinic reports that addiction rates for cannabis are significantly lower than other drugs: Nicotine (32%), Heroin (opioids) (23%), cocaine (17%), alcohol (15%), and marijuana (9%). 

A study funded by the National Institute of Health found that over a 6-year period, “states with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8% lower opioid overdose mortality rate.” Each subsequent year after legalization, opioid overdoses decreased 20% in the 1st year and dropped to 33% in the 6th year. The RAND Corporation found in a national study that the use of cocaine dropped 50% as cannabis use increased 30%. Between 1999-2016, more than 12,000 North Carolinians died from opioid overdose. 

Associating cannabis with violent crimes is also false. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse and other studies find that, after reviewing a large national sample of arrestees, aggressive behavior is associated with alcohol but not with illegal drug use.

Further, if the state is concerned about traffic fatalities, it should immediately legalize cannabis. The American Journal of Public Health and other studies have explored traffic data from 1985 to 2014 and compared states with and without operational dispensaries. The researchers found that medical marijuana states had lower traffic fatality rates, with a decrease on average of 10.8%.    

Between 2001-2010, North Carolina and its counties wasted $55 million on courts, prisons and enforcing marijuana laws, and more than $6 million annually based on the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program. 

Numerous studies find that with adequate THC levels, cannabis is an effective medicine to treat many conditions from chronic pain, PTSD, nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy, and spasticity [tight or stiff muscles] from MS; further research suggests that cannabis may prove useful in the treatment of gliomas and other cancers, either alone or in conjunction with other medicines. Research continues to identify new uses.

North Carolina’s health care providers are prevented from operating within their scope of practice by the restrictions denying them the opportunity to recommend cannabis to patients who have found other treatments may be ineffective, potentially addictive, or have potentially serious side effects.

We urge the General Assembly to take action in 2021, in the interest of justice and for the benefit of patients. 

NC NORML’s Board of Directors

Zac Lentz

Katrina Ramquist Wesson

Lauren Shiel

Dylan Reinhardt

Ann Twitty Caughran

### NC NORML is a nonprofit cannabis consumer advocacy organization whose mission is to educate, empower, and activate North Carolinians and elected officials to honor the individual liberty of adult consumers to responsibly use and/or grow cannabis for medical or personal purposes. 

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