South Carolina medical marijuana

On January 22, Sen. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) and Rep. Peter McCoy (R-Charleston) of the South Carolina legislature introduced companion bills to legalize medical marijuana. If they become law, South Carolina will join 33 other states in having a medical program.

In a subsequent press conference, Davis touted the Compassionate Care Act as the most conservative in the nation, with real-time, seed-to-sale tracking, independent testing, and a prohibition on smoking. (Patients may instead vape, eat edibles or gel caps, or use patches, suppositories, or topical cream.) Davis spoke optimistically of the odds that a bill would pass, citing support from both parties. While previous bills have died in committee, this year he expected to get the bill “across the finish line.” “This is South Carolina, not California or Colorado, and what the vast majority of people in our state want is a socially conservative medical marijuana law, one that provides medical patients truly in need with relief but draws a bright line against recreational use,” said Davis, who led a CBD legalization effort in 2014.

For McCoy, legalization is a personal issue. At the conference, he spoke of being the parent of an infant with epilepsy who was having “seizure after seizure.” “It’s time to put…patients first,” McCoy said. “Who are we to stand in front of helping people in need?” A former criminal prosecutor, he acknowledged that he worked with law enforcement to craft the bill, but that nevertheless it “will meet some resistance.”

Opponents

Davis and McCoy face opposition. The Republican governor of South Carolina, Henry McMaster, said in a candidates’ debate in 2018 that he was opposed to medical legalization, citing the concerns of law enforcement that medical legalization would be impossible to regulate “appropriately.” In response to the move to legalize medical cannabis, South Carolina’s attorney general, Alan Wilson, decried marijuana as “the most dangerous drug.” In addition, in response to the filing of the legalization bill, the South Carolina Medical Association issued this statement:

Supporters of marijuana are beginning to acknowledge many of the objections the South Carolina Medical Association and others have had to marijuana legalization efforts. Physicians remain opposed to marijuana and sections of this new bill forcing physicians to be the access point for marijuana in South Carolina. This bill circumvents federal law, disregards the scientific method, and will require careful study by physicians and lawmakers. Improving the health of South Carolina remains our top priority and legalizing marijuana will not do that.

The bill would require training for those physicians who wish to recommend medical marijuana for cancer and nausea, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, multiple sclerosis, neurological pain, PTSD, and other severe medical conditions including “chronic or debilitating diseases for which an opioid is currently or could be prescribed by a physician based on generally accepted standards of care.”

Arguing in favor of medical legalization, Davis pointed out studies showing the medical effectiveness of cannabis, including as an alternative to opioids. He also emphasized that medical legalization has the support of South Carolinians. A recent poll by Benchmark Research shows that 84% of the state’s Democrats and 63% of Republicans support medical legalization.

What do you think? Will South Carolina legalize in 2019? Leave a comment below.

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