Regular visitors to HMJ have suffered through me rhapsodizing on the importance of the heartland embracing re-legalization. That will seem tame compared to how I am going to carry on when the old Confederacy comes around. And, in the interests of full disclosure, I live in North Carolina.
A poll conducted by Public Policy Polling reveals that most North Carolinians believe that a doctor should possess the legal option to authorize marijuana for patients. Support for legalizing medical marijuana is at 58% overall, with 33% opposed and 9% undecided. A majority of every age group under age 65 supports allowing for the medical use of marijuana. The poll surveyed 608 North Carolina voters between January 10 and January 13, 2013.
Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said "These numbers are significant. Support for marijuana law reform is at an all-time high nationally, but we had expected public opinion in the South to be significantly different from the national numbers. It looks instead like citizens everywhere recognize the need for changing strategies and stopping the War on Drugs, notably the war against the marijuana plant and it's consumers."
Perry Parks, a Vietnam veteran and long-time advocate for medical marijuana in North Carolina, said the poll shows that people everywhere have come to see the need for a more compassionate approach to marijuana. "There are tens of thousands of vets who get some relief from their wounds from this herb. Plus, everyone I talk to knows someone who is suffering from cancer, neurological disease, or other debilitating problem. The government can no longer lie about the effects of marijuana--these people know it helps them. Why we won't support our vets and put this medicine back in the hands of doctors, where it was until the 1940s, still baffles and frustrates me. The Veterans Administration will not treat a vet in North Carolina who uses cannabis. Yet they'll treat that same vet, with the same problems, in the eighteen states that have medical marijuana."
Parks' organization, the North Carolina Cannabis Patients' Network, continues to urge the legislature to pass a bill allowing medical marijuana. Parks said a rally in support of the legislation would be held at the legislative building in Raleigh on February 12. "I have spoken to many legislators who say privately that they understand the need to change our approach to marijuana, at least for disabled veterans and others who suffer from debilitating disease. But the public, as this poll shows, is way out in front of our politicians on this issue. Our bill, a carefully-drafted one that draws on the best features of the eighteen states that have already acted, did not even receive a committee hearing in the 2011 session of the General Assembly. We hope people from all across the state will join us on February 12 to show their support for a more compassionate approach this year."
Jon Kennedy, an officer with the North Carolina branch of NORML, said the poll results confirm what his organization has believed all along. "The people of North Carolina are beginning to understand that marijuana is safer than alcohol and are demanding a change in how we spend our tax dollars. Just because someone is politically and socially conservative doesn't mean they blindly support failed policies like the War on Drugs. In fact, many conservatives accurately see this as another example of government overreach. Why are we wasting billions of dollars of taxpayer money arresting people for a non-toxic plant that can actually improve their quality of life? Why don't we take the law enforcement resources we devote to marijuana and use them instead to pursue violent criminals? Sure, there can be drawbacks with overuse of anything we ingest, but those are better handled by education and personal responsibility than by the criminal justice system. It's past time that we broke the taboo on discussing this openly in North Carolina. We should join the serious national conversation now underway."
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[image: Google images North Carolina]