Updated on April 26, 2018. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
The medical marijuana program in North Carolina only recently started. Before 2014, there was no provision for the medical use of cannabis products in the state. Since most state medical marijuana programs are restricted to residents, patients living in North Carolina who suffer from debilitating conditions had no legal source of marijuana therapy.
North Carolina’s medical marijuana program is expanding. From 2014 to 2015 access for patients was increased, and more doctors were allowed to make recommendations. A new medical marijuana bill introduced by state lawmakers in 2017 would greatly expand the program to treat a list of conditions and make marijuana accessible to more patients. House Bill 185, the North Carolina Medical Cannabis Act, would establish a medical marijuana program where patients could register for identification cards.
In 2014, North Carolina began to recognize the benefits of marijuana for treating seizure disorders by passing a very limited medical marijuana law. Known as the Hope 4 Haley and Friends Act, this initial legislation allowed doctors affiliated with the neurology departments at Wake Forest University, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University and East Carolina University to recommend cannabis for their patients.
This limited study in the medical benefits of marijuana was applied only to seizure disorders. The marijuana recommended was predominantly CBD, with only trace amounts of THC allowed. Patients in this program were issued a medical marijuana card and allowed to possess the cannabis products that were recommended by their neurologist.
Doctors making recommendations of marijuana therapy had to be registered with the study at one of these four universities. Their patients’ data was tracked and used to provide medical evidence that a state marijuana program is warranted. Neurologists dispensed the hemp oil used in this program that could only contain 0.3 percent THC and had to be at least 10% CBD.
The following year, the governor signed a new law expanding the use of marijuana for medical purposes. This new medical marijuana program is still restrictive by many standards, and it will sunset in 2021.
The North Carolina Epilepsy Alternative Treatment Act enacted in August 2016 is the marijuana state law currently in effect. It stipulates provisions for board-certified neurologists to recommend marijuana treatment even if they are not affiliated with the four universities originally identified. Neurologists can be associated with any state-licensed hospital.
There are no age restrictions on marijuana patients in North Carolina, but only those diagnosed with epilepsy can qualify for medical marijuana therapy. Among epilepsy sufferers, only the most severe cases can be treated with cannabis, and the treatment must be recommended by a neurologist.
The content of the cannabis extracts used for treating patients in North Carolina is restricted to 0.9% THC. The minimum amount of CBD in the treatment is 5%. CBD is the cannabinoid most effective at reducing seizures. The current medical marijuana program in North Carolina is focused on this one positive outcome that cannabis can provide.
If you are looking for relief from intractable epilepsy that has not responded, or no longer responds, to conventional pharmacology, medical marijuana may be the right treatment for you. To begin the application process for your North Carolina medical marijuana card, search for a marijuana doctor in North Carolina.
Only neurologists are able to recommend medical marijuana treatments. We maintain a database of doctors who are willing to recommend marijuana for patients who qualify. Here is more information about getting your North Carolina medical marijuana card.