With 33 U.S. states legalizing cannabis for medical purposes, those states where the plant medicine remains illegal are in the minority. One of those states is North Carolina, but that could change next year. State representative Kelly Alexander (D) announced that he and other lawmakers would discuss a possible bill to legalize medical cannabis.

“It’s time now for the legislators in North Carolina to catch up with the people,” Alexander told WNCT9.

Alexander tried to take a balanced approach to the state, saying that those few counties that might not want to have dispensaries could follow the model of alcohol sales.

“We have dry counties. We have wet counties. We have portions of counties that may be wet, and the rest of them are dry. All of those are driven by local option decisions,” Alexander said.

Medical cannabis supporters would argue that since cannabis is a medicine, it shouldn’t be treated the same way as the availability of liquor stores. There are likely no counties in North Carolina that refuse to sell over-the-counter acetaminophen. Still, this is a step in the right direction for North Carolina, and a good sign for patients in the state who need access to medical herb.

There are only about 20 percent of residents in the Tar Heel state that oppose the legalization of medical cannabis, according to a 2017 poll conducted by Elon University, and 45 percent of North Carolinians favor the legalization of adult recreational use of the plant. Many other prominent state politicians, business owners and educators echoed Alexander’s sentiment in a recent survey, and are all in medical cannabis policy reform. James Coleman, a law professor at Duke University, mentioned in the survey how harmful the war on cannabis is to the people, turning harmless users into criminals.

“The criminalization of marijuana possession is the equivalent of a throw down gun that the police can use when it is convenient to remove people they consider undesirable,” said Coleman.

If North Carolina lawmakers introduce proposals to legalize medical cannabis in 2019, it most certainly will not be the first. Over the course of the past decade, there have been many such proposals in the Tar Heel state, with three bills this year not making their way to committee hearings. Clearly, medical cannabis legalization is the will of the people of North Carolina – and indeed, Americans as a whole. It’s about time lawmakers caught up.