South Carolina Medical Marijuana Debate Renews

Advocates, opponents prepare to reengage as hot-button issue returns to the forefront of debate within the S.C. General Assembly.

The medical marijuana debate is set to renew at the South Carolina State House this week as advocates of decriminalization rally in support of the compassionate care act – (S. 366) and (H. 3660). This legislation never advanced beyond the committee level in 2019, but its supporters have promised to pick up “where they left off.”

The proposed legalization of medical marijuana – which enjoys overwhelming public support in the Palmetto State (and the editorial support of this news outlet) – has been among the highest profile issues facing state lawmakers in recent years. Unfortunately, efforts to advance it – led by state senator Tom Davis and S.C. House judiciary chairman Peter McCoy – have been unsuccessful in large part due to opposition from the law enforcement community, among others.

Law enforcement opposition has also been instrumental in influencing S.C. governor Henry McMaster, who has vowed to veto a decriminalization bill in the event one were to land on his desk.

According to supporters, the compassionate care act would “establish a comprehensive, well regulated medical cannabis program in South Carolina.” In fact, Davis has referred to his legislation as “the most socially conservative medical marijuana bill in the country.”

That hasn’t stopped anonymous detractors from attacking him, however …

And more importantly, it has not allayed the concerns of law enforcement leaders like chief Mark Keel of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), although the dialogue between Keel and Davis has reportedly been constructive of late.

SLED has even offered proposed amendments to the legislation, we are told.

Nonetheless, Keel remains opposed to the bill as currently written – and will testify to that effect at a hearing (.pdf) scheduled for 2:00 p.m. EDT on Tuesday (January 21, 2020) before the S.C. House medical, military, public and municipal affairs committee.

“I look forward to the opportunity to address the committee regarding current proposed legislation on medical marijuana,” Keel told us this week. “My position and recommendation on medical marijuana remains unchanged. 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.  If this truly is going to be medicine, then it should be regulated by the FDA, prescribed by a doctor and dispensed by a licensed pharmacist.” 

This news outlet has long argued in favor of legalizing marijuana – medically and recreationally.  As far as we are concerned it is a liberty issue – although we have acknowledged the necessary limits of such a policy.

“As we continue to push for the decriminalization of drugs it’s important to remember that there are – and should be – limitations to this freedom,” we wrote last spring.

Still, we believe decriminalization makes sense from an economic standpoint.

In the aftermath of the first legislative hearing, a group of patients, doctors and veterans will gather at the State House to tout the legislation. Among them? Margaret Richardson – the wife of Scott Richardson, a former state senator and ex-director of the S.C. Department of Insurance (SCDOI).

(Click to view)

(Via: S.C. General Assembly)

Richardson (above) provided riveting testimony to a legislative panel a year ago about the chronic pain she endures as a result of trigeminal neuralgia – and the relief she has obtained through the use of medical cannabis.

Longtime medical cannabis advocate Jill Swing – whose daughter Mary Louise Swing has severe epilepsy – will also appear at the press conference on behalf of the S.C. Compassionate Care Alliance. Judy Ghanem of Murrells Inlet, S.C. – whose daughter was born with a genetic disorder that could be treated by medical cannabis – will attend, too (among others).

The gathering of medical cannabis supporters is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. EDT on Wednesday (January 22, 2020) in the rotunda of the S.C. State House.

This news outlet continues to believe that decriminalization is sound public policy – on multiple fronts. Aside from providing a legitimate medical benefit to broad swaths of the populace currently suffering from a variety of chronic conditions, there are multiple economic benefits to be derived from medical and recreational legalization.

And while we are not blind as to the costs associated with such a policy shift, we believe its implementation would constitute a net gain for the citizens of the state.

Sadly, though, lawmakers seem no closer to recognizing this …

“Hopefully at some point in the not-too-distant future … legislative backing for the legalization of marijuana (and other drugs) will begin to align more closely with public support – however we are not holding our breath,” we wrote last spring.

What do you think? Vote in our poll and post your thoughts in our always lively comments section below …


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