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5 Things To Know: New Bill Aims to Legalize Marijuana in North Carolina

...and four more stories from April 18-24, 2021

N.C. Rep. John Autry was part of a group of legislators who filed a bill that aims to legalize marijuana in NOrth Carolina this week. (Photo by Melissa Rustemov)

New Bill Aims to Legalize Marijuana in North Carolina

N.C. Rep. John Autry of Charlotte was one of four North Carolina legislators to introduce HB 617 — a bill to legalize and regulate the sale, possession, and use of cannabis in North Carolina — in the General Assembly this week. 

As written, HB 617 will: 

  • Establish the creation of the Office of Social Equity to conduct community reinvestment and repair, social equity, cannabis education and technical assistance activities. 
  • Make legal the use, possession, and cultivation of up to 12 cannabis plants for persons 21 or older for personal use.
  • Allow regulations for growers, producers/processors, retail outlets, and on-site usage establishments, among others. 
  • Establish a Registration Department. 
  • Provide for the collection of state and local taxes.

A similar law recently passed in Virginia will go into effect this summer. Autry estimated that will place about 2 million North Carolinians within a 30-minute drive of a state where they can go to spend money on legalized cannabis products — money that could be spent in state if North Carolina were to legalize marijuana. 

“With the appropriate regulation this can be a game changer for North Carolina, which is already a large producer of hemp products,” Autry stated in a press release on Wednesday. “Growers who were required to destroy their entire crops can now legally dispose of higher THC-content vegetation. It’s a win for farmers, and entrepreneurs investing in this new industry.”

Research has showed that about half of Americans admit to having used cannabis despite more than eight decades of prohibition. Marijuana possession is the most common drug offense, making up more than half of drug arrests nationally. An Elon Poll carried out in late January showed that 54% of North Carolinians support legalization of marijuana for recreational use. 

It would appear attitudes are changing among some Republicans in North Carolina, as N.C. Sen. Bill Rabon, chair of the Senate Rules Committee, introduced a bill earlier this month that would legalize marijuana for medical use in North Carolina. 

HB 617 — which was co-sponsored by Autry and fellow N.C. House reps Allison Dahle (D11-Wake), Pricey Harrison (D61-Guilford), and Zack Hawkins (D31-Durham) — has been sent to the House Rules Committee. 


LGBTQ Groups Commit $10,000 to Protecting Black Trans Women

LGBTQ community organizations announced a collective effort to support the emergency relief needs of Black trans women in Charlotte at a press conference Wednesday, committing $10,000 to support housing, food, and other emergency needs. The new effort comes on the heels of the April murders of two Black trans women in Charlotte, Jaida Peterson and Remy Fennell. 

CMPD arrested and charged two men for the killings, alleging that the pair committed both murders together, though some local advocates have spoken out against the way the department has handled the investigation. 

trans women killed
Jaida Peterson was one of two trans women killed in Charlotte in the past two weeks, allegedly by the same two men.

Campaign for Southern Equality, Charlotte Pride, Equality NC, and Transcend Charlotte are challenging community members to match their commitment with an additional $10,000. All funds raised will be directed to the grassroots organizations Charlotte Uprising, Feed the Movement, and House of Kanautica, which are providing on-the-ground direct services to Black trans women in Charlotte. Donations can be made through Equality NC and Charlotte Pride.

“This city is not safe for trans folk and Charlotte has been an epicenter of violence against Black trans people for years,” said Nada Merghani, programs manager for Charlotte Pride and co-founder of Feed The Movement. “This crisis did not start a few days ago with the murder of Jaida and Remy, who should still be here today, and it will not end with the apprehension of two of the many killers and perpetrators of violence against Black trans women and girls. We must acknowledge this crisis of transphobia and begin working collectively to support them and provide true pathways for personal safety, upward mobility, and economic stability.”

According to the Human Rights Campaign, Charlotte ranks as the second deadliest city in the nation for transgender and gender-nonconforming people. At least six Black trans women have been murdered in Charlotte since 2016. Nationally, at least 44 transgender people were murdered in 2020. In 2021, the number of anti-trans murder victims has already risen to at least 15.


Vaccination Efforts Expand, COVID Metrics Mixed

Though vaccination numbers are relatively good, local health officials have begun expanding efforts to get Mecklenburg County residents vaccinated by holding pop-up vaccination clinics in untraditional spots such as breweries.

Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris announced this week that the county will discontinue its large-scale vaccine operation at Bojangles Coliseum so as to free up staff to focus efforts on specific areas. MCPH will continue to target certain populations with pop-up events, such as one geared toward the LGBTQ community earlier this week. 

COVID-19
(Graphic courtesy of MCPH)

According to the latest data released by MCPH on Friday, there had been 107,860 total cases of COVID-19 and 939 deaths related to the coronavirus in the county to that point, an increase of 1,765 cases and 11 deaths since the same time last week. 

According to more in-depth data for cases that had occurred through Wednesday, the county had seen a 7% test-positivity rate over the previous week and an average of 246 laboratory confirmed infections per day, both decreasing trends compared to the previous two weeks. On average, 167 people were hospitalized on any given day due to COVID-19 over the past week, an increasing trend. 

According to MCPH, 387,026 Mecklenburg County residents (34.9%) had been at least partially vaccinated as of Wednesday, while 246,965 residents (22.2%) were fully vaccinated.


Hotel Accommodations Extended for Former Tent City Residents

While updating Mecklenburg County commissioners on Tuesday, Karen Pelletier with the county’s Community Support Services confirmed that three former Tent City residents have died since moving into the two hotels the county provided to house more than 200 people who were moved from the site running along West 12th Street in February. According to Pelletier, one of the deaths was drug-related, while the other two were caused by underlying medical conditions. 

Tent city
Tent City was cleared out due to a rat infestation in February. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

Of the 200+ people who were moved to the two hotels in late February, 168 remained as of Tuesday, according to Pelletier. Some have been kicked out due to drug use, solicitation or other criminal behavior, while others have left on their own volition. Pelletier said CSS plans to consolidate the remaining residents into one hotel in the next month, and recommended that the county extend the lease to run through September, as it is now scheduled to expire in June. 

Pelletier said CSS is working to find housing for the individuals in the hotel, but have been stymied by barriers that include substance abuse, mental health issues and landlords who refuse to rent to anyone with a criminal record. 


Three Murders in Charlotte This Week

There were three shooting deaths in Charlotte this week, bringing the total number of illegal killings in Charlotte this year to 31. 

At around 8 p.m. on Sunday, police responded to a shooting call on North Sharon Amity Road near Kimmerly Glen Lane in east Charlotte and found 46-year-old Jonathan McCorkle laying in the road, dead of a gunshot wound. No arrests have been made in this case. 

 

Police responded to another shooting call on McArthur Avenue in the Druid Hills neighborhood of north Charlotte at around 9:15 p.m. on Tuesday and found 28-year-old Harry Brown suffering from a gunshot wound. MEDIC transported Brown to the hospital, where he later died. A 22-year-old man was since been arrested and charged with Brown’s murder. 

Shortly after 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, police responded to a Food Lion parking lot at the intersection of Albemarle and Harrisburg roads and found 28-year-old De’Anthony Ellis suffering from a gunshot wound. MEDIC transported Ellis to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. During the investigation, police were made aware of two men, age 22 and 23, who had shown up at the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries from the same shooting. Further investigation identified the two men as suspects in Ellis’ murder, and both were arrested and charged upon release from the hospital. 


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