ROCKINGHAM — U.S. Senator Thom Tillis is throwing his support behind a federal bill that gives some advocates of medical cannabis hope for the future.
Last week, Tillis signed on as a co-sponsor to the Marijuana Effective Drug Study Act of 2017, a bipartisan bit of legislation introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah in a pun-filled speech on the floor.
“It’s high time to introduce research into medical marijuana,” he said. “Our country has experimented with a variety of state solutions without properly delving into the weeds on the effectiveness, safety, dosing, administration and quality of medical marijuana.”
While he admitted to not being a fan of recreational use, Hatch said he worries that the federal government’s “zeal to enforce the law, we too often bind ourselves to the medicinal benefits of natural substances like cannabis.”
Hatch called the bill “a joint effort to help thousands of Americans suffering from a wide-range of diseases and disorders.”
In addition to Republican colleagues Tillis and Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, Hatch also secured co-sponsorships from Democratic Sens. Chris Coons of Deleware and Brian Schatz of Hawaii.
“When it comes to our nation’s efforts to cure diseases and improve the quality of life for people suffering from ailments, burdensome government regulations shouldn’t be an impediment to legitimate and responsible medical research,” Tillis said in a statement to the Daily Journal on Friday. “The MEDS Act is a commonsense, bipartisan effort to remove unnecessary barriers that will give scientists the ability to study the biochemical processes, impact, dosing, risks and possible benefits of cannabidiol and other components of the marijuana plant.”
Marijuana is still listed as a Schedule I controlled substance by the federal government, alongside heroin, with “no currently accepted medical use” — despite the fact that 29 states and Washington, D.C. allow medical marijuana and the government itself holds a patent on cannabanoids.
While North Carolina isn’t one of those states, the General Assembly has allowed the use of cannabis oil to be used for the treatment of seizures in children.
“…the evidence shows cannabis possesses medicinal properties that can truly change people’s lives for the better,” Hatch continued.
One of those is local cannabis crusader Perry Parks, who is continuing his fight to be treated as a patient — and not a criminal — in his home state.
Parks was just getting in his vehicle to return to Rockingham from a forum in the capital titled “What Medical Cannabis Could Look Like For Our Veterans.”
Parks, a Vietnam veteran who prefers medical marijuana to pills, thinks the new bill is a step in the right direction.
“The very fact that so many people are trying it, it wouldn’t matter if it was a placebo effect, if you could stop people from doing harder drugs it’d be worthwhile,” he said.
Parks pointed to a study reported in multiple publications that showed opiate-related deaths have decreased in states that allow cannabis for medicinal uses.
He has been featured at several forums and publications on the topic, including a Time magazine special edition, “Marijuana Goes Main Street,” which was recently reissued. In it, Bruce Barcott, author of “Weed the People: The Future of Legal Marijuana in America,” credits Parks and a few others with helping change his perspective on the subject, calling for an end to the laws and “the stigma and prejudice.”
“The shaming and stigmatization of pot users has gone hand in hand with draconian sentencing laws and mass incarceration,” Barcott writes.
In addition to his speaking engagements, Parks is also involved with the North Carolina Cannabis Patients Network.
Reach William R. Toler at 910-817-2675.