As Opioid Abuse Rises, WNC GOP Lawmaker Predicts Medicinal Marijuana Will Come To NC In '3-5 Years'

Feb 1, 2018

(CORRECTION - This story has been updated to reflect other WNC legislators who sponsored medicinal marijuana legislation) 

Opioid abuse claims almost four lives per day in the state of North Carolina – leaving some patients to shun the post-surgical benefits of these powerful painkillers altogether.  Recent comments from a Western North Carolina legislator suggest there may be a renewed effort to fill that gap by putting some medical marijuana laws on the books.

Last month Bryson City Republican Representative Mike Clampitt held another of his town hall meetings in Haywood County.  As the former fire chief touted his public safety record and economic development initiatives, the discussion took an unexpected turn – to marijuana.  Clampitt said that opioid overdoses in his home county, Swain, had tripled in 2017. Many who proceed down the path of addiction started after being prescribed the drugs legally by a doctor, something his elderly father in Oregon wanted to avoid.  "Dad was getting the low THC chocolate marijuana that he was taking for his pain from having a kidney removed and did not want to get on a heavy dose of opiates and stuff like that because of the addiction and whatnot", says Clampitt.

Clampitt reaffirms he’s against recreational marijuana, which is now legal in 8 states.  But North Carolina isn’t one of the 21 states that permit some form of medicinal use. Does Clampitt think that could change?  “Long answer with that", says Clamapitt.  "I don’t know of any one particular facet that’s a driving force with this, but it’s one of those kinds of things that is sort of sublingual right now, and I think that in the next three, no more than five years we will have an address to this situation in North Carolina.”

Clampitt says he supports, in principle, some form of medical marijuana in North Carolina.  "As long as, one, we’re not in violation of federal law with that as a regulated substance and then also with that, if the medical community can prove to me and show me that the medicinal marijuana, medical cannabis — whatever it is called — has medicinal value and is just not a stepping stone to other problems and issues.”

Three such bills were presented to the General Assembly last year and all three died in a rules committee. No Western North Carolina representatives or senators sponsored or co-sponsored any of them, except for Asheville Democratic Senator Terry Van Duyn and representatives John Ager and Brian Turner.