SC Medical Marijuana Ballot Question Challenged

Is referendum question honest?


This news site has never played into the “medical marijuana” game.  Don’t get us wrong, we unequivocally believe access to cannabis for legitimate medical purposes is a fundamental human right.  In fact we have repeatedly referred to it as a “moral imperative.”

Still, many supporters of medical marijuana don’t care about helping kids with seizures (or adults with chronic pain) … they are looking for a backdoor to recreational legalization.

That’s okay with us … because as libertarians we support recreational decriminalization.   Have for years.  But using the decriminalization of cannabis for medical purposes as a backdoor to recreational marijuana legalization is fundamentally dishonest (and one of the reasons medical marijuana bills have stalled in the South Carolina General Assembly).

We shoot straight on this issue … about the freedom/ free market benefits of decriminalizing marijuana (and other drugs), but also about the detriments of such a policy.

Next Tuesday, as partisan primary voters head to the polls across the state to choose Democratic and “Republican” nominees for a host of offices, medical marijuana will be on the ballot.  Well … it will be on one of the ballots.

Democratic primary voters will have a chance to weigh in on the issue … although the language they will be voting on is causing a bit of controversy.

Here is the question that will appear on next Tuesday’s Democratic primary ballot …

Do you support passing a state law allowing doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to patients?

Seems pretty cut and dried, right?   Indeed.  Also, it seems like a question most people (and certainly most Democrats) would answer in the affirmative.

Which may have been the idea …

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Chief Mark Keel of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) – who has led the fight against decriminalization in the Palmetto State for several years – used the occasion of the upcoming referendum to reiterate some of the concerns he has been raising since the beginning of this debate.

In addition to reminding voters of the supremacy clause angle (“marijuana is illegal under federal law … a state statute cannot override federal law,” he tells us), Keel continues to stress the fact that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved marijuana for medical use.

“Marijuana has not gone through the testing and evaluation process that would allow it to be regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration which has the authority over legal prescription medications,” he said.

But Keel’s reel beef with this referendum is its language, which he believes is deliberately disingenuous.

“This is yet another attempt by those whose true intent is to profit from the legitimate suffering of some people,” Keel (below) told us.  “We continue to support federal funding for the testing and evaluation that could result in medicines based on marijuana and regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration which regulates all legal prescription medication.  As we have pointed out repeatedly, legislation should not replace science.”

(Click to view)

(Via Travis Bell Photography)

Keel’s position is shared by doctor Kevin Walker – a Greenville, S.C.-based anesthesiologist who has met with numerous state lawmakers about various proposals to decriminalize medical marijuana.

“The question they proposed is just not a valid question,” Walker told us. “It’s not even close to a true statement.”

According to Walker, the authors of the referendum question “are blatantly misleading people.”  Not only that, he believes the lack of physician oversight associated with the current proposal could be dangerous to consumers … err patients.

“There is no regulation on dosage – which can be wildly variable,” he said.

Medical marijuana supporters pushed back at Keel’s statements regarding the referendum.

“Disappointing, but not surprising,” said state senator Tom Davis, a longtime champion of medical marijuana decriminalization.  “For reasons that surpass understanding, Chief Keel won’t admit that our medical-cannabis bill would provide for a strictly regulated system that’s overseen by both physicians and law enforcement. But in any event, with all due respect to those involved on both sides of this particular ballot question they are arguing semantics at a time when people are continuing to suffer.  The real question here is this: Are we going to help people?  Or are we going to continue forcing them to suffer?  We shouldn’t need a referendum to answer to that question – and we clearly don’t need a referendum to show us there is widespread, growing support among voters in both parties for medical marijuana.”

Davis’ view was backed by Mandy Powers Norrell, one of the lead sponsors of the latest decriminalization bill.

“This is an issue that, once a person understands it, he or she becomes a warrior for it,” said state representative Mandy Powers Norrell.  “I wasn’t in favor of it until I had the facts.  I met a mom whose daughter was having up to a thousand seizures a day until she got THC.  Medical cannabis probably saved that little girl’s life and now she can smile and interact with her family.  But her momma is having to break the law to get her the very thing she needs to live.  As a mother, I would do it too! I wouldn’t think twice about it. But this mother is having to deal with drug dealers who are selling an unregulated product.”

“We, as a state, should not be putting this mother on the opposite side of the law just to obtain the medicine she needs to save her child,” Norrell added.  “And we also should not be putting her in a situation where she can’t be sure that what she’s giving her baby is pure because it hasn’t been tested or regulated.  This is inhumane.”



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