Here’s what marijuana laws look like around the Southeast, as NC considers changes

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As North Carolina approaches a marijuana milestone, potentially legalizing the drug for medical use, nearby states are split in their approach.

The Southeast is coming late to the marijuana scene. The region is home to several of the 14 states that do not have comprehensive medical marijuana programs or full marijuana legalization, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

With nearly 80% of voters approving of medical marijuana in North Carolina, according to a poll conducted by Elon University, support is also building in the state legislature, where a Senate committee approved a medical marijuana bill Wednesday.

Here’s a look at the condition of marijuana laws in some other Southeastern states.

South Carolina

South Carolina has not legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use.

A bill known as S. 150 or the South Carolina Compassionate Cares Act passed the Senate Medical Affairs Committee in a 9-5 vote in May but did not advance farther. The bill — which sponsor Sen. Tom Davis said will be debated when the Senate reconvenes in January 2022, WBTW News 13 reported — would legalize marijuana for medical use.

If passed into law, the bill would be one of the most conservative marijuana laws in the United States, Davis told WBTW. It would allow for marijuana to be used in treatments for illnesses including cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, sickle cell anemia and autism.

A 2019 poll from Benchmark Research found that 72% of 400 South Carolina voters surveyed support the legalization of medical marijuana, The State newspaper reported.

Tennessee

Tennessee is another Southern state that does not allow for the use of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes.

Several bills have been rejected in the legislature this year that would have approved the use of medical marijuana, including Senate Bill 854, sponsored by Sen. Janice Bowling, which was rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee in March, WJHL reported.

On June 1, a law was passed which expanded the exceptions for the use of low-THC cannabis oil in treating seizure patients, according to the pro-legalization National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). THC is the active ingredient in marijuana. Senate Bill 118 also established a commission to study current federal and state laws surrounding marijuana, and to advise lawmakers on future legislation. A report must be issued to lawmakers by January 2022.

According to a 2018 Middle Tennessee State University Poll, 81% of Tennessee voters were in favor of some form of marijuana legalization.

Virginia

Virginia stands out among Southern states as being one of the few states in which marijuana is legal for medical and recreational use.

law passed on April 7 laid out a three-year plan to make adult consumption of marijuana fully legal and will create a regulatory framework for the sale of the drug. The bill was initially proposed by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and was passed by the General Assembly.

June 1 will mark the creation of a new state authority charged with the regulation and legalization of simple possession and home cultivation of marijuana. Adults 21 and older will not be able to purchase marijuana until January 2024.

A poll conducted by Christopher Newport University in February found that 68% of Virginia voters supported legalizing recreational marijuana for adults.

Georgia

Georgia does not have a comprehensive medical marijuana program, according to the NCSL, but has a more limited law allowing products with low THC.

In Georgia, a new law takes effect on Thursday that will allow for the expanded establishment of up to 30 state-licensed retailers selling marijuana oil extracts containing no more than 5% of THC, according to NORML.

The oil extract was legalized in 2015, and nearly 15,000 Georgians are registered under the law to qualify for the drug.

A 2019 bill, known as Georgia’s Hope Act, established a regulatory commission that will oversee production, manufacturing and dispensing of the oil.

A 2018 11Alive poll found 72% of voters in Georgia supported the state permitting state-regulated cultivation of marijuana to produce cannabis oil, and 55% believed that recreational use should be legalized.

Alabama

In May, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed an Alabama law which will permit the use of medical marijuana for conditions including autism, panic disorder, depression, Crohn’s disease, Tourette syndrome and epilepsy, among others, WBHM reported.

Although medical marijuana won’t be available in Alabama until late next year, the state is in the process of establishing a regulatory committee.

The Alabama bill received bipartisan support, an increasingly common theme.

In 2014, a bill known as Carly’s Law was signed by Gov. Robert Bentley which approved a $1 million study on cannabidiol, or CBD, oil extracted from marijuana by the University of Alabama at Birmingham. It also allowed for the university to prescribe the drug in cases of debilitating epileptic seizures.

Florida

Florida voters approved medical marijuana in 2016, the News-Press reported.

Florida expanded its approval of the use of medical marijuana in 2019, allowing patients to purchase up to 2.5 ounces of smokable marijuana every 35 days for a variety of ailments. The bill was signed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

In March the Florida House Professions & Public Health Subcommittee approved a bill that enacted a 10% THC cap on smokable marijuana products. The bill died in the Health and Human Services committee.

According to a survey this year commissioned by Florida For Care, a marijuana advocacy group, 71% of voters said that they supported continuing to allow smokable marijuana products for patients, and 59% of voters support the full legalization of marijuana for use by adults.

In June, the Florida Supreme Court struck down a ballot initiative proposal to fully legalize marijuana for adult use. It was the third time in three months the court blocked expanding access to the drug, The Miami Herald reported.

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