For the first time, efforts to refine proposed medical marijuana legislation in South Carolina are receiving substantive input from leaders in the Palmetto State’s law enforcement community – who have heretofore been staunchly opposed to medical marijuana on public safety grounds.
Does that mean these law enforcement leaders are now supporting medical marijuana? No … in fact they made it clear to us they continue to oppose the push to decriminalize it in the Palmetto State.
Nonetheless, the discussion over amendments to the “Compassionate Care Act” – S. 366, which would tightly regulate medical marijuana use – signals at the very least a cooperative dialogue emerging between the warring factions in this ongoing, multi-year debate.
Medical marijuana – which enjoys overwhelming public support – has been among the highest profile issues facing state lawmakers in the past few years. Unfortunately, efforts to advance this issue – led by state senator Tom Davis and S.C. House judiciary chairman Peter McCoy – have been unsuccessful thanks to continued opposition from the law enforcement community, among others.
Also, McCoy is presumed to be leaving the S.C. General Assembly soon given his status as the heir apparent for the U.S. attorney position in the state of South Carolina. So while cannabis backers will gain a new ally in law enforcement – they will need to find a new champion to advance this issue in the S.C. House.
The hurdle there is high, too.
S.C. governor Henry McMaster has made it clear he would veto the measure – citing the opposition of Mark Keel, chief of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED). That means two-thirds majorities of both the S.C. House and S.C. Senate would be necessary to ensure the bill’s passage.
This week, Davis told us he was pleased that Keel was engaging in the debate by offering specific amendments to S. 366 – amendments which certainly appear to address a wide range of law enforcement concerns with the proposed legislation (including concerns over vaping).
(Click to view)
(Via: Travis Bell Photography)
“I really appreciate Chief Keel and SLED putting forward specific amendments,” Davis (above) told us. “My goal has always been to pass a conservative medical-cannabis bill – one that empowers doctors to put medicine in the hands of patients who desperately need it, but that also draws a bright line against recreational use. And law enforcement’s involvement in the drafting process will help us achieve that goal.”
“I realize this doesn’t mean (Keel) is for it,” Davis told us, but he added he was still “appreciative of his involvement and giving us the benefit of his experience.”
Keel also adopted a conciliatory tone in addressing his discussions with Davis.
“I appreciate senator Davis and his committee members taking the time to listen to our concerns about medical marijuana,” Keel said. “I also appreciate the straightforward and frank discussions we had on the potential public safety implications with medical marijuana.”
Still, Keel made clear he was not backing the bill.
“My position and recommendation on medical marijuana remains unchanged,” he said. “I strongly believe the right path forward is to follow the established process of having medicines approved and regulated through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. All efforts regarding medical marijuana should be directed in assisting the federal government in this endeavor.”
(Click to view)
(Via: Travis Bell Photography)
“As we have pointed out repeatedly, legislation should not replace science,” Keel continued. “Anything less blatantly ignores existing laws and will end up having negative long-term impacts on our state, especially on those very individuals who are seeking help. I am sympathetic to the families and individuals who are seeking relief but I am also bound to uphold the law for the nearly five million other citizens of our state.”
This news outlet has made our position on the issue of decriminalizing drugs abundantly clear over the years: We support it.
Within reasonable limits, that is …
Accordingly, we view marijuana legalization (for medical or recreational purposes) as a liberty and economic issue – however we also believe those who oppose it raise legitimate public safety concerns that need to be addressed.
After all, in expanding one set of liberties we cannot allow more fundamental liberties to be eroded.
For those of you interested in tracking the specific language of this bill, below is a copy of the latest version of the legislation provided to us by the S.C. Senate.
Take a look …S-366-REDLINED-COMP-AMENDMENT-FOR-TD.MBM_.SLED-1
(Via: S.C. Senate)
WANNA SOUND OFF?
Got something you’d like to say in response to one of our stories? Please feel free to submit your own letter to the editor (or guest column) via-email HERE. Got a tip for us? CLICK HERE. Got a technical question or a glitch to report? CLICK HERE. Want to support what we’re doing? SUBSCRIBE HERE.