Kevin Baiko Explains the Politics of Cannabis in North Carolina

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I never dreamt I’d be running for US Congress, as a Republican, championing the legalization of medical cannabis, but so I am. My wife suggested I run when our Representative, Walter Jones, died unexpectedly in February 2019. At first I was incredulous: “Me? A politician?? Why would I want THAT?!”, but as we mused over the idea, it started to make more sense.

My career in cannabinoid medicine began almost 10 years ago in Hawaii. I had never before seriously entertained such a career path, but with only short shifts available at the urgent care I was attending, my wife and I decided to open our own mobile clinic. Following a friend’s suggestion, we included medical cannabis certifications in our list of services, and it became our most requested one. Our business thrived and I found myself enjoying medical practice as I never had before. I became a witness to the countless ways medical cannabis significantly improves the quality of people’s lives. My direct clinical experience taught me a great deal about the healing properties of cannabis and in my pursuit of continued medical education on the subject I became a certified diplomat of the American Academy of Cannabinoid Medicine. I had found a happy home in medicine.

Family concerns and an interesting observation turned my attention to North Carolina, which in 2011 was entertaining legislation to legalize cannabis for medical use. I contacted the North Carolina Cannabis Patient’s Network, and we moved to the east coast shortly thereafter. Of course, we maintained our cannabinoid medical practice in Hawaii, traveling back and forth multiple times yearly to service my patients. I honestly never thought I’d still be doing it though. Surely, Carolina would have passed a bill permitting me to practice my beloved specialty in its borders by now, but this has yet to happen. Every session a medical cannabis bill has been introduced (generally by a few sympathetic democrats) into the NC General Assembly it has been either actively killed or just left to die (generally by a majority of unsympathetic republicans) in some legislative committee.

It’s been a frustrating road, all the more so given the fact that I identify myself a republican. Like Walter Jones I certainly didn’t start that way. I voted democrat in my early 20’s. Its party just seemed more caring and peaceful, but such is the naïve romance of youth. In time my anti-authoritarian nature won out. As I grew to see the inverse relationship between government and liberty, an aversion to both parties crept in, only to be partially alleviated by the limited government gospel of Ron Paul, who remains to date the only Republican presidential candidate I’ve ever voted for. He too supported (and still does) ending the “War on Drugs” (which is actually a war on people.)

Recent polls have projected as many as 80% of North Carolinians support the legalization of medical cannabis. Cannabis activist groups like NCCPN have been testifying on the need for such legislation at the Capitol for years. It isn’t an age or partisan issue amongst voters, but it sure seems to be in the NC General Assembly. In fact, in 2013 one infamous committee vice-chairman bragged about killing a medical cannabis bill to end the “harassment” being inflicted on his (republican) committee members by patients sharing their supportive views on the matter. With the exception of those legislators already on the NC “Cannabis Caucus”, few members of our General Assembly have ever been willing to discuss medical cannabis with me, an expert witness on the subject. How’s that representation for you?

I think elected representatives should actually represent their constituents. They should put the interests of those in their district over party agendas and even their own ideology. And so I’m running for Congress, not for myself but for a noble cause. I incorporated a cannabis leaf into my campaign logo to stand for compassion, prosperity, liberty and the future. As a candidate I am taking a public stand on behalf of patients, doing all that I can to help ease suffering and save lives. I am running in this special election because the timing coincides directly with the current state medical cannabis bill just introduced. I am using my platform to bring public awareness to the urgency and importance of this issue and to expose our legislators who refuse to support the bill. If I were to win the election, I would be the only cannabinoid medicine physician serving in US Congress. I would use my position to educate other lawmakers, most especially those in the Republican Party, as to why it is imperative that they get on board. 

Of course, I can’t do this alone. I need help in spreading the word about my campaign and optimizing my online visibility. I need help funding information mailings to maximize my name recognition amongst voters. I need help educating the good folks of Eastern Carolina (and especially their representatives in the General Assembly) how beneficial the legalization of medical cannabis would be for them. Please visit my website and help in any way you can. I surely appreciate any and all assistance. Thank you.

Author Bio: Kevin Baiko is the Medical Director of the North Carolina Cannabis Patients Network and a Board Member of the American Academy of Cannabinoid Medicine. He is a Candidate running for US Congress in North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District.

advocacy north carolina north carolina medical marijuana

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