BEAUFORT, S.C. – South Carolina State Senator Tom Davis today released the following statement regarding yesterday’s letter (attached) written by the directors of South Carolina’s four primary law-enforcement agencies to the members of the state’s Medical Marijuana Study Committee, which he co-chairs. This response to that letter is Sen. Davis’, not the committee’s.
“In my six years as a state senator, I have always supported full funding for law enforcement, which is without question a core and critical function of state government. And I have great respect for the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to protect us. That said, however, when law enforcement officials make statements that are in error, which I believe they have in this letter, it is important for me to say so.
“First, the law-enforcement officials write they ‘were encouraged to see the General Assembly pass legislation this year that [they] felt would prepare South Carolina to respond in a positive manner if the federal government were to take action to address marijuana’s status as an illegal substance.’ But that’s not a correct statement of what the General Assembly did.
What the legislature actually did was pass a bill (S. 1035), signed into law by the governor (Act 221), that makes it legal for a person who has a severe form of epilepsy that is not adequately treated by traditional medical therapies, and whose condition has been certified in writing by a licensed physician, to possess and consume an oil derived from cannabis ‘that contains nine-tenths of one percent or less of tetrahydrocannabinol and more than fifteen percent of cannabidiol.’ (Quoting from Section 44-53-110(27)(b)(vi) of the Act.)
“The General Assembly did not, as suggested by the officials in their letter, condition the legality of a person’s possession or consumption of cannabis oil in South Carolina on the federal government taking action to address marijuana’s legal status. Such possession and consumption of the cannabis oil became legal in South Carolina when Gov. Nikki Haley signed S 1035 into law on June 2, 2014. There is no ambiguity in this regard; in fact,
‘A physician is not subject to detrimental action, including arrest, prosecution, penalty, denial of a right or privilege, civil penalty, or disciplinary action by a professional licensing board for providing written certification for the medical use of cannabidiol to a patient in accordance with this section.’ (Quoting from Section 44-53-110(27)(d) of the Act.)
“Second, the law-enforcement officials write that “the intent of the [Medical Marijuana Study Committee] has moved away from its statutory purpose. The last section of S 1035, Act 221 (Section 4(c)) charges the study committee as follows:
‘The study committee shall provide a report with findings and recommendations to the House of Representatives and the Senate by March 15, 2015, at which the study committee shall dissolve. The report must address, at a minimum, methods and procedures for cultivating medical marijuana in the State, the amount of tax to impose on the sale of medical marijuana, the need for an agriculture marketing plan for the sale and use of medical marijuana, and the impact of the sale and use of medical marijuana on public health and wellness. The report must address, at a minimum, methods and procedures for cultivating medical marijuana in the State, the amount of tax to impose on the sale of medical marijuana, the need for an agriculture marketing plan for the sale and use of medical marijuana, and the impact of the sale and use of medical marijuana on public health and wellness.’
“Over the past three months, the study committee has held four public meetings, one each in Columbia, Charleston, Greenville and Florence. In each instance public notice of the study-committee meeting was provided and every individual who wanted to speak was heard. The committee’s charge was very broad – to report on ‘the impact of the sale and use of medical marijuana on public health and wellness’ – and though a few speakers may have made comments regarding (quoting from the law-enforcement officials’ letter) ‘possibly even recreational marijuana use,’ the committee’s focus has always been on the impact of marijuana for medical purposes only.
“In regard to the broader public debate about whether to increase the medical uses of marijuana beyond the scope permitted by Act 1035, I certainly respect and welcome the opinions expressed by the law-enforcement officials in their letter, even though I strongly disagree with them. But I take issue when they write: ‘We simply believe that federal action is required before any type of marijuana use should become legal in South Carolina.’ The General Assembly, in passing S 1035, and the governor, in signing Act 221 into law, has already determined that, as a matter of state policy, such federal action is not required.”