A bipartisan group of state lawmakers will introduce comprehensive medical cannabis legislation Tuesday, January 10, in the South Carolina General Assembly.
At 10:30 a.m., several of the legislators will join patients and advocates in the First Floor Lobby of the State House for a news conference to discuss the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act, which will allow patients suffering from debilitating medical conditions to access medical cannabis if their doctors recommend it. Palmetto State lawmakers scheduled to speak at the event include a lead sponsor of the legislation, Sen. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort); House Minority Leader J. Todd Rutherford (D-Richland); Rep. Eric Bedingfield (R-Greenville); and Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell (D-Lancaster).
According to Rep. Norrell, her support for medical marijuana results from wanting to expand patient options, while at the same time limiting the spread of an ongoing heroin epidemic in South Carolina, reports FITS News. “I’m very persuaded by the opioid addiction crisis and the fact that narcotics cannot be a long term solution to pain management,” Norrell said.
Patients and family members of patients who would benefit from legal access to medical cannabis will discuss the urgent need for the legislation. Among them will be SC Compassion spokesperson Jill Swing of Charleston, whose 9-year-old daughter has cerebral palsy and epilepsy, and Bill Davis of Townville, an ordained minister with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
Late last year, a Winthrop Poll for The State newspaper found that an impressive 78 percent of South Carolinians support the legalization of medical cannabis. “I can’t think of any issue that enjoys that overwhelming support,” Sen. Davis told reporter Lindsay Street at Statehouse Report.
Back in 2014, Davis opened the door a crack for medical marijuana. He introduced and successfully got passed into law, a bill that allows doctors to authorized cannabis-derived CBD oil to qualified patients.
“This new law would expand the uses of cannabis for medicinal purposes,” Sen. Davis said. “It’s going to be a new ballgame in terms of advocacy this year, and that’s a function of the education and being made aware of it.”
Davis said his new bill will treat marijuana like any other controlled medication, except that the state would have to oversee cultivation, processing, dispensing and consumption. Davis said fees on growers and dispensaries would offset any expenses incurred by the state.
In the House, longtime medicinal cannabis advocate Democratic Rep. Todd Rutherford has filed a similar new medical marijuana bill which would allow combat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder to use cannabis. He called the bill a “baby step” that would help “one of the largest classes of people” benefiting from marijuana.
“[Veterans] should now be able — if they have suffered PTSD or other illness as part of their service — should be able to partake of marijuana,” Rutherford said. The Representative added there really shouldn’t even be any controversy about allowing veterans access to medicinal cannabis. “You should put your money where your mouth is and show how proud you are of our veterans.”
Rutherford’s bill, like that of Sen. Davis, would authorize who can grow medical marijuana in South Carolina, and which patients can buy from those growers.
“The time has come for us to stop burying our heads in the ground and realize that marijuana is something that grows from the earth and has great benefit,” Rutherford said.
“We understand we can only accomplish what we have in pieces,” said Wayne Borders, executive director of the Columbia, S.C., chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Borders added there are “clearly thousands” of patients in the state who could benefit from Davis’ 2017 bill.
WHAT: News conference to discuss the introduction of comprehensive medical cannabis legislation in the South Carolina General Assembly
WHEN: Tuesday, January 10, 10:30 a.m. ET
WHERE: First Floor Lobby of the South Carolina State House, 1100 Gervais St., Columbia
WHO: Sen. Tom Davis, Lead Senate bill sponsor
Rep. J. Todd Rutherford, House Minority Leader
Rep. Eric Bedingfield
Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell
Jill Swing, SC Compassion spokesperson and mother of a 9-year-old daughter with cerebral palsy and epilepsy
Bill Davis, ordained minister with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
Additional lawmakers, patients, family members, and advocates
SC Compassion is a statewide coalition of patients, families, and advocates working to establish a comprehensive medical cannabis program in South Carolina. For more information, visit https://SCCompassion.com.