A longtime head of the South Carolina Sheriffs’ Association, the immediate past U.S. Attorney for South Carolina, and a former local police officer will testify in favor of comprehensive medical cannabis legislation Wednesday, March 29, in the state Senate.
At 2:30 p.m. ET, Jeffrey Moore, Bill Nettles, and Raeford Davis will join leaders of Compassionate South Carolina outside the Gressette State Office Building for a news conference in support of S. 212. The bill would allow patients with certain debilitating conditions to access medical cannabis if their doctors recommend it. They will then testify at the Senate Medical Affairs subcommittee hearing on S. 212, which is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. ET in Room 308.
Jeffrey Moore served 32 years as executive director of the South Carolina Sheriffs’ Association before retiring in 2014. Bill Nettles served as U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina from 2010-2016. Raeford Davis spent four years as a patrol officer and two years as a detective with the North Charleston Police Department. He left policing in 2007 after being injured in the line of duty.
“This is sensible, compassionate, and responsible legislation,” Moore said. “It establishes a tightly controlled program that would help a lot of seriously ill South Carolinians, including our veterans suffering from PTSD. This law was designed to serve and protect. It will improve the quality of life for patients while safeguarding the quality of life in our communities.”Moore stunned some observers with his support of the bill, reports Seanna Adcox at the Associated Press. Moore said it helped save his son’s life. He said marijuana prohibition prevents his son, an Army veteran who suffers from PTSD, from coming home to South Carolina for fear of being arrested. Moore’s son lives in Michigan, where he can legally smoke a high-CBD, low-THC strain of cannabis that he says doesn’t get him high.
“His life has made a complete, 180-degree turnaround,” Moore said of his son, who had previously made two suicide attempts. “Had he stayed in South Carolina, he’d have ended up killing himself.”
More than three out of four South Carolina residents (78 percent) think cannabis should be made legal for medical use, according to a September 2016 Winthrop Poll commissioned by The State. Only one in six South Carolinians (16 percent) think it should remain illegal. Twenty-eight states have enacted comprehensive medical cannabis laws.
Some of S.C.’s Most Conservative Lawmakers Back Bill
This year’s efforts in South Carolina are bolstered by some of the state’s most conservative lawmakers, including 50-year-old Rep. Eric Bedingfield. His son’s six-year struggle with opioid addiction ended with an overdose a year ago. “My mindset has changed from somebody who looked down on it as a negative substance to saying, ‘This has benefits,'” Bedingfield said.
Christian author Bill Davis leads a Bible study for people fighting drug addiction. Davis said he was bedridden until he tried medical cannabis. Diagnosed with incurable idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis two years ago, he was put on an experimental drug with “horrible side effects.”
“I had to decide whether I wanted to die of lung disease or kidney or liver failure,” Davis said. Then he started vaporizing marijuana. He said vaping cannabis allows him to control the amount of CBD and THC he receives. “I’m praying this state will allow me to be treated legally for me to live,” using “a plant that God made,” Davis said.
“He is living, walking proof that there can be some very real benefits,” said GOP Rep. Jonathon Hill, who signed onto the bill after hearing Davis’ story over dinner at his home.‘We shouldn’t be forcing a choice between breaking the law or not taking care of members of your family,” said Republican Rep. Bill Herbkersman. “They call it a gateway drug, but sometimes it’s just a gateway to a little bit better life, or what you have left of a life.” Herbkersman said that cannabis was the only thing that gave his brother an appetite, and helped keep the pain at bay before he died of skin cancer in 2011.
“Two-thirds of the U.S. population resides in states that allow qualifying patients to use medical cannabis if their doctors recommend it,“ former U.S. Attorney Nettles said. “South Carolinians who could benefit from medical cannabis should not have to move away from their families, friends, and jobs in order to access it. Patients battling cancer, epilepsy, and other debilitating conditions need to have every option available in their treatment arsenal.”
WHAT: South Carolina law enforcement figures speaking out in support of comprehensive medical cannabis legislation at a news conference and during a Senate Medical Affairs subcommittee hearing
WHEN: Wednesday, March 29, news conference at 2:30 p.m. ET; subcommittee hearing begins at 3 p.m. ET
WHERE: News conference in front of the L. Marion Gressette State Office Building, 1101 Pendleton St., Columbia; subcommittee hearing in Room 308
WHO: Jeffrey Moore, past executive director of the South Carolina Sheriffs’ Association
Bill Nettles, former U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina
Raeford Davis, former patrol officer and detective with the North Charleston Police Department
David Newsom of Myrtle Beach, director of governmental affairs for Compassionate South Carolina and father of a 7-year-old with a rare seizure disorder
Compassionate South Carolina is a statewide coalition of patients, families, and advocates working to establish a comprehensive medical cannabis program in South Carolina.