Earlier this week, South Carolina senator Tom Davis took to social media to raise the issue of medical cannabis – posting an image of himself sitting alongside S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) chief Mark Keel.
For several years, Davis and Keel have been antagonists in an ongoing battle over the extent to which the Palmetto State should legalize marijuana for medical purposes. Keel has largely won this battle, but the tide has been turning in Davis’ favor of late – with so-called “Republican” leaders in the S.C. General Assembly forced to resort to procedural gimmickry to kill his bills, which have widespread public support.
Despite getting procedurally backstabbed by his GOP colleagues, Davis has remained a principled advocate for legalization in the legislature – and a true statesman in his interactions with law enforcement.
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“I authored a 2014 law allowing doctors to authorize medical marijuana use by epilepsy patients, and I’m trying now to expand medical uses,” Davis wrote this week on X, formerly known as Twitter. “SLED Chief Mark Keel has opposed me, but in a way that has forced my bill to become more precise. Principled opposition leads to better laws.”
Davis’ post drew praise from our media outlet – which has long supported the legalization of cannabis for both medical and recreational purposes.
“Whether you agree or disagree with Davis on this issue (or other issues), the man is a statesman,” we tweeted. “In a sea of opportunistic, self-serving politicians, South Carolina is lucky to have a handful of principled leaders like Tom debating policy, not politics. We need a hundred more like him.”
Not everyone was happy with Davis, though.
In response to our praise for him, the S.C. Law Enforcement Officers Association (SCLEOA) – a group we generally admire and agree with – fired back with a blanket statement implying that all law enforcement officers opposed legalizing marijuana.
“Not just Chief Keel opposes this legislation,” the group stated. “Medical or legalized marijuana is bad for our state. The thousands of cops we represent oppose it as well! It’s a schedule one drug for a reason.”
“Yes, there’s a reason marijuana’s a schedule one drug and ranked as being more dangerous than schedule two drugs like cocaine, fentanyl, morphine, and methamphetamine, but It’s not the reason you imply, and it certainly isn’t because marijuana has no medical benefits,” Davis shot back.
“We are glad you understand where law enforcement stands,” SCLEOA responded. “We can agree that substance abuse leads to poor decisions and consequences.”
Davis pushed back – pointing out the failure of previous prohibition efforts and the chronic abuse of prescription drugs that are not classified as schedule one narcotics.
“Can we also agree the potential for abuse is not a sufficient condition precedent for a ban?” Davis continued. “That was the rationale for the Eighteenth Amendment (a.k.a. prohibition), which didn’t turn out so well. Also, by your logic certain prescription drugs that are in fact abused should be banned — do you favor that?”
At this point, it appears whoever runs the SCLEOA Twitter (or “X”) account realized arguing with the smartest elected official in the state might not be the smartest idea – and the debate was shut down.
Davis was not done, though.
“I respect law enforcement and the real-life experiences they have dealing with crimes involving illegal substances, and I appreciate them bringing that unique perspective to this debate; it has forced me to work harder and make my bill better,” Davis said. “But their continued lack of empathy for patients who are needlessly suffering and their disregard for the overwhelming weight of medical authority about the therapeutic benefits of medical cannabis is very troubling.”
““Neither law enforcement nor politicians should be the gatekeepers here — that role belongs to physicians in consultation with their patients,” Davis added.
Davis’ bill – S. 423 – was introduced in the S.C. Senate on January 19, 2023 and referred to the chamber’s medical affairs committee. It received a favorable recommendation from this committee on February 21, 2023, but did not receive a vote on the floor of the Senate. Previous bills have passed the Senate but, as previously noted, been killed by House leaders using procedural gimmicks.
“This bill, from top to bottom, now is a very conservative, safe bill,” Davis told our Mark Powell earlier this year. “You’ve got doctors on the front end who have to authorize a patient’s use. You’ve got pharmacists on the back end who will dispense the cannabis to patients and consult with the patients. You’ve got regulation, every step of the process from the growing the processing to the dispensing. You have seed-to-sale tracking to make sure there’s no diversion. We’ve looked at the 37 or 38 states now that have already legalized medical cannabis. And we have taken from the best of all those laws. And we’ve come up with a bill that is a conservative template for states that want to empower doctors, that want to help patients but also want to draw a bright line against recreational use. This is that model bill.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven (soon to be eight) children.
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