by BILL NETTLES || Like all law enforcement officers in South Carolina, I took an oath to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of this State and of the United States.”
By design, this oath does not include the authority to interpret the Constitution. The Founding Fathers of our Republic tasked a different branch of government with that authority. In South Carolina, a group within the law enforcement community opposes allowing sick patients to include medical cannabis as a safe non-addictive treatment. They point to the supremacy clause of the Constitution in support of that opposition. They argue that they swore an oath to defend the Constitution.
However, under their interpretation of the United States Constitution, South Carolina cannot exercise its States’ right to promulgate legislation that would allow patients, upon recommendation of a doctor, to avail themselves of cannabis – a proven treatment option to address a wide range of illnesses.
The President of the United States does not share the view of this group of law enforcement officers in South Carolina that oppose a states’ right to allow patients to consider safe and effective treatment options. This month, Republican Senator Cory Gardner from Colorado received a promise from President Donald Trump that the federal government would not interfere with State’s rights to promulgate legislation establishing the individual state’s policy on cannabis. That promise has since been confirmed by White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders. This frees the way for states to proceed with adoption of policies that are tailored to the needs of their individual states.
“Since the campaign, President Trump has consistently supported states’ rights to decide for themselves how to best approach marijuana,” Gardner said.
The Compassionate Care Act that enjoys broad bipartisan support in the South Carolina Legislature, and an over 70 percent approval rating from voters, has been crafted after taking into account the needs of patients and concerns of law enforcement. While the oath taken by law enforcement does not include the authority to interpret the Constitution they so nobly serve, the legislative body tasked with passing legislation is well advised to consider and seek the input of the law enforcement community. To that end the Compassionate Care Act pending in South Carolina is the most law enforcement friendly legislation in the country. The act before the legislature in South Carolina provides law enforcement unbridled access and unprecedented control of the process.
Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have passed laws that allow their citizens the option of choosing medical cannabis as a treatment option. In each one of those 29 states and the District of Columbia, well beyond half the population of the country, law enforcement officers have taken an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. Simply put, well over half the law enforcement in the country have taken an identical oath to the one our brave men and women in law enforcement have taken in South Carolina. None of those brave law enforcement officers in over half the country have found that allowing their citizens the option to choose a safe non-addictive treatment was in any way an impediment to their sworn duty to valiantly “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.”
Bill Nettles was the United States Attorney for the District of South Carolina for over six years. He is currently in private practice, www.billnettleslaw.com, and is the President of Palmetto Medical Cannabis, LLC.
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