Legalize marijuana for medical purposes

It is doubtful that the Legislature will even vote this year on a bill to legalize certain medicinal uses of marijuana, much less pass it. We hope someday, however, common sense will overcome unwarranted fears to allow patients who would benefit from medical marijuana to use it legally.

The medical affairs committee of the state Senate is set to hold hearings on a bill that would create options for the legal, medicinal use of the drug in South Carolina. A variety of proponents for medical marijuana, including Rock Hill activist Rosemary Wallace, have been lobbying for the bill.

But getting it to the floor of the Senate will be difficult. Any one of 46 senators can place a hold on bills, and one this contentious is likely to be blocked. Senators could barely rally the necessary vote to overcome a filibuster of the roads bill; overcoming a filibuster on a medical marijuana bill would be even harder.

But compassion dictates that lawmakers eventually approve a plan make marijuana legally accessible to patients in need. There is no good reason to prolong the suffering of these people when so many other states have adopted laws enabling the controlled use of the drug.

Wallace, an Army veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other physical ailments, now travels to Colorado, where she has a state-issued medical marijuana card, for treatment. She serves as executive director of the Carolinas Cannabis Coalition.

Currently, medical marijuana is legal in 23 states and the District of Columbia. Eighteen other states, including South Carolina, allow use of the non-psychoactive marijuana extract cannabidiol, or CBD oil.

The most common argument against legalizing the medical use of marijuana is that it would be difficult to regulate and lead to abuse as a recreational drug. Opponents also worry that legalizing medical marijuana would be a slippery slope toward outright legalization of marijuana as has occurred already in some states.

But the therapeutic value of marijuana has been well established. It has been successfully used for pain relief, control of nausea, appetite stimulation and relief from the symptoms of HIV/AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, PTSD and other ailments. The drug could prove useful in a variety of other applications if patients are allowed to use it.

Doctors are permitted to prescribe drugs that are far more powerful and addictive than marijuana, including morphine, codeine and other opiates and their chemical cousins. The nation currently is experiencing an epidemic of addiction to opioids such as Oxycontin.

Denying the right to use marijuana for medical purposes seems to be largely the result of pot’s long history of use as an illegal substance. Those who view marijuana as a dangerous recreational drug are reluctant to advocate its use for any purpose.

But it is illogical and potentially heartless to deny patients with serious health problems a drug that could help mediate pain and discomfort. We hope South Carolina lawmakers eventually see it that way.