They call themselves the “peaceful picketers,” and they are trekking across North Carolina to raise awareness about House Bill 1161 — more commonly known as the North Carolina Medical Cannabis Act.
Introduced in the state legislature in May by Rep. Kelly Alexander, a Democrat from Mecklenburg, the bill, if passed, would put the legislation on November’s ballot, allowing the citizens of North Carolina to decide for or against medical marijuana.
Tim Stimson of Fletcher, Ray Pague of Saluda, Sean Boyce, of Asheville and Jason Humes of Asheville began their March on Friday with a sendoff in Asheville at the Vance Memorial in downtown. They will walk 262 miles into Raleigh in time for Moral Monday on June 23, where they plan to lobby legislatures to support the bill. Before the march began, they raised money and received support from local organizations such as North Carolina NORML, Blue Ridge Liberty Project, Cannabis Professional University and Patients Out of Time.
On Monday, they could be seen trotting down Fairview Road in Marion. Their goal for the next 15 days is to educate people along the road in hopes they support the use of medical marijuana in North Carolina.
Stimson is the founder of an organization called Blue Ridge Medical Cannabis Research Corporation, where he grew and sold medical cannabis out of his home. His operation was raided in 2013, and he faces felony charges, even though the government knew of his business and he had been paying taxes from his business to the state through tax stamps. His 14-year-old daughter also has cancer, and he believes that people should have access to medical marijuana as a way to treat themselves.
“This is about public awareness; the bill lets the people decide. We believe in the freedom of choice,” Stimson told The McDowell News. “You should be able to help yourself and treat yourself. And that’s what we think it should be, to let the people decide instead of them trying to tell us yes or no.”
If legalized, qualified medical marijuana patients and their caregivers would no longer be subject to arrest and prosecution for using marijuana under a doctor’s order, and it would also set up a regulated medical cannabis supply system for patients to safely access their medicine.
Washington, D.C. and 22 other states have enacted laws to legalize medical marijuana. Colorado and Washington are the only two states with legal recreational marijuana use.
Ray Pague said he is a long-time activist for reforming cannabis laws, and he is filming the entire journey to Raleigh from Asheville for North Carolina NORML. He said there have been many supporters already in the past four days of marching, with several filmed testimonials of people advocating for the use of medical marijuana.
“This means a lot to us. It takes a little bit to get out here and do this,” Pague said. “We all have our reasons for doing this, but we have gotten way more positive responses than negative. We are also keeping track of how many police we encounter. They are usually real positive and they keep us going.”
A pace car with a trailer follows the marchers and supplies them with water and food and scouts out camping spots along the way. The team is walking about 16 to 20 miles a day. They are encouraging folks to join in their march, even if it is only for a few steps.
Stimson said he has already spoken with Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, and Speaker of the House Tom Tillis about supporting HB 1161. Stimson added that two more bills are being introduced in favor of CBD oil and conducting studies of medical marijuana.
“When we get to Raleigh, we have different brochures for when we go in and lobby, and some of the brochures that we’re using are the same ones that were used in Florida to convince the legislature leaders down there,” Stimson said, who added he encourages registered voters to contact their local representatives if they are in support of medical marijuana.
The News Observer in Raleigh reported that a survey found 63 percent of North Carolinians believe doctors should have the right to prescribe marijuana for medical use. The article also said the poll found that 48 percent of North Carolina voters believe farmers should be allowed to grow industrial hemp.
For more information on the uses of medical marijuana, visit the North Carolina Cannabis Patients Network website at nccpn.org. To keep track of the march from Asheville to Raleigh, visit “March Against Fear 2014” on Facebook.
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