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Bill Nettles: Time For Lawmakers To Take Up Medical Cannabis Bill

“It is wrong to deny a vigorous and educated debate on this legislation …”

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by BILL NETTLES || One of the beauties of the democratic process is that it is designed to produce legislation reflecting input from all interested parties.  We elect leaders to be our voice, to take our voice to the legislature and enact legislation that reflects who we are.  The ends of the spectrum should try to meet in the middle and produce legislation that both can embrace.  We are in the midst of the inevitable process of allowing patients to choose medical cannabis as a safe effective method of treating illnesses and lessening pain.  Medical cannabis is a safe, non-addictive plant that can be grown here in South Carolina. The only impediment to allowing patients to choose this plant is the voice of an organization that I have sometimes disagreed with but always, always respected.  Some of the members of our law enforcement community in South Carolina seek to deny patients access to medical cannabis.

Twenty-nine states, two in the South, and the District of Columbia allow patients to choose to avail themselves of this safe effective treatment. Not a single one of the states that has allowed patients to utilize cannabis as a treatment has embarked on any effort to repeal this option.  Reason tells us that it is because the effort has, in every state, proven to be successful.  In each case legislation to allow medical cannabis improves the lives of the patients and the lives of those around them.

This effort to provide seriously ill patients with a choice is receiving growing support from both conservatives and liberals in South Carolina and across the nation. This support is because pain and illness knows no political affiliation.  It knows no socio-economic bracket and it knows no color.  It is no coincidence that 80 percent of South Carolinians support efforts to make medical cannabis a treatment option for patients-they know it will make a positive difference.

The data supporting the claims that medical cannabis is safe and effective is beyond novel and is now well into the realm of accepted and uncontroverted.  This represents a change of landscape for law enforcement that has dedicated their lives to protecting us.  Their commitment is to be respected and their voice deserves to be heard but it should be but one of the voices.

Senate bill 212, the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act, receives the support and backing of Republican Tom Davis and Democrat Brad Hutto, to name but a few.  These are Senators affiliated with two different parties with different views of how government should work.  Yet they both recognize the good that will come from legal medical cannabis legislation.

This week the bill was modified in an attempt to assuage the concerns of some in the law enforcement community.  These modifications included a tracking that would closely monitor the process from seed to sale of the product.  “Seed to sale” monitoring has been used with great success in other states.  This is the reason that states that have instituted such programs have seen no increase in underage use, a common concern that is voiced by law enforcement.  That bears repeating; the states that have “seed to sale” monitoring have seen no increase in underage use.  That is a fact.

The modified bill, in a further effort to satisfy some opponents in the law enforcement community, allows them unfettered access to every part of the process.  This modified bill would allow law enforcement to enter and inspect without any warrant or cause and much less the probable cause that is so cherished by both our State and Federal Constitutions.  The willingness to abdicate these inalienable rights is but one example of the commitment of this bipartisan group of legislators to put safe, effective, non-addictive treatment in the hands of seriously ill South Carolinians.

A democratic process is not served by anything less than letting this bill out of committee and onto the floor so a complete debate can be heard.  It is wrong to deny a vigorous and educated debate on legislation that has proven in over half the states of the Union to make the lives of those that are suffering just a little more bearable.

Bill Nettles is the former United States Attorney for South Carolina, is currently in private practice and is CEO of Palmetto Medical Cannabis, LLC.

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