S.C. legislators are gearing up for another fight over a bill that would allow the legal use of medical marijuana in the Palmetto State.
A half-dozen lawmakers Tuesday made their first order of business on the session’s opening day the unveiling of the S.C. Compassionate Care Act.
The bill would allow South Carolinians with “debilitating medical conditions” to use medical pot, when approved by a doctor.
Last year, bipartisan efforts to legalize medical marijuana died in House and Senate committees. That effort was opposed by law enforcement officials, who said they feared that legalizing medical marijuana would lead to more pot being available in the state for non-medical uses.
State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, said the proposal includes safeguards that would prevent medical pot from being diverted to recreational use, including “seed-to-sale” tracking of the medicinal plants that would be monitored by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.
“South Carolinians draw a line between (recreational) cannabis and alcohol,” Davis said. “That’s not the debate we’re having in South Carolina.”
Davis repeatedly cited a poll showing 78 percent of South Carolinians support legalizing marijuana for medical use. He hopes the bill’s chances will be boosted by the the stories of South Carolinians who struggle with conditions that could be alleviated by using cannabis.
In 2014, Jill Swing of Mount Pleasant pushed the Legislature to legalize the marijuana derivative cannabidoil for medical use, hoping to alleviate her daughter’s violent seizures. But she said she quickly realized her family had few legal avenues to access the drug.
“Last summer, we reached our breaking point,” Swing said. “We became medical cannabis refugees in Maine, where she could be treated with higher levels of THC (the psychoactive element of cannabis) than is legal here.”
SC’s proposed medical pot law
To qualify: Patients must have a qualifying medical condition, ranging from cancer-induced nausea to post-traumatic stress disorder to Parkinson’s, their doctor’s recommendation and a registration card issued by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.
For caregivers: Parents or guardians could apply to DHEC to become a designated caregiver, who would have their own registration card that allows them to assist a qualified patient in the medical use of their cannabis.
Limits: A patient could not possess more than two ounces of dried cannabis per patient in a 14-day period. Cardholders who violate the law could have their cards revoked and could face criminal penalties.