An arduous seven-year struggle to pass a medical marijuana bill ended with a whimper Wednesday night in South Carolina. A Republican House leader ruled the proposal contains an unconstitutional tax increase, reports the AP.
The decision shocked leaders in the state Senate. It will likely have consequences beyond failing to make South Carolina one of about 40 states allowing patients to use Cannabis as medicine.
The bill’s chances dimmed when it went to the House, reports News 19. GOP lawmakers opposed to the bill found ways to block the measure from quickly moving to a floor debate.
South Carolina’s medical Cannabis law would have been one of the most restrictive in the USA. Only residents with medical conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, sickle cell, autism and PTSD would be able to get marijuana. Smoking weed would be illegal. Patients would be instructed to use oil, salves, patches or vaporizers.
Back To Square One In South Carolina
The bill would have to restart the entire process if introduced in next year’s session. It would again need approval in both the Senate and House.
Senate leaders were visibly stunned to see years of hard work by respected colleague Sen. Tom Davis cast aside with no debate. Lawmakers said their deteriorating relationship with the South Carolina House is in a shambles after the decision.
The chambers are more than $1 billion apart on a budget. And now they are making threatening noises at each other over an early voting bill.
The decision “will likely have significant consequences” between the Senate and the House. But hopefully ”cooler heads can prevail,” Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey said.
“A Hail Mary Pass”
Meanwhile, a stunned Davis walked around talking to his colleagues.
Davis told reporters he believed the decision to throw out the bill was arbitrary. The House had voted for numerous Senate bills with similar revenue-raising provisions this session, he argued. Staff and legal counsel told Davis, while he drafted the bill, that its primary objective was legalizing medical marijuana — not creating new taxes.
“That’s been part of the bill for the past seven years,” Davis told reporters. “It’s just this time around, somebody saw the vote count, tried a Hail Mary pass and, like Doug Flutie, completed that pass in the end zone.”
Davis said he will continue to try to pass the bill. He’s also evaluating other bills that are still alive. Davis could potentially rewrite those to include medical marijuana.
Bill Tabled On A Technicality
Republicans tabled the Compassionate Care Act because of a technicality involving sales tax.
Before the House began its debate of multiple bills, Republican Rep. John McCravy argued the medical marijuana bill was out of order. He claimed that’s because it would generate a 6 percent sales tax.
McCravy came prepared to stop the bill’s progress. He had more than 1,000 amendments designed to block its passing. “I think there are many defects in the bill,” he said. “That’s just the first defect. I’ve got three pages of bullet points with problems in the bill.”
GOP House Speaker Pro Tem Tommy Pope ruled in McCravy’s favor. “Procedurally this bill is dead,” Pope said on the House floor, reports The Post and Courier. That effectively ended hopes of medical marijuana advocates. An attempt by Democrats to overturn that ruling failed in a 59-55 vote, reports The State.
State law requires any bill that generates revenue to originate in the South Carolina House. But the medical marijuana bill came from the Senate.
“Governor McMaster And His Allies In The Legislature Could Screw Up A Two-Car Parade”
South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Joe Cunningham criticized Gov. Henry McMaster and the Legislature after lawmakers tabled the bill, reports Live 5. Cunningham, a Democratic former Congressman, is running against McMaster.
“Governor McMaster and his allies in the legislature could screw up a two-car parade,” Cunningham said. ”This is a historic failure of leadership by this governor and legislators to pass a watered-down version of the most conservative medical marijuana bill in the entire country.
“If Henry McMaster wanted this bill to pass, it would have passed a long time ago. But the reality is he doesn’t support this bill and he never did,” Cunningham said.
”Henry McMaster had the opportunity to move our state into the future but he chose to keep us stuck in the past. Just because the governor still lives in the dark ages, doesn’t mean South Carolina has to,” Cunningham said.
GOP Governor Says Cops Don’t Like Medical Marijuana
Gov. McMaster, for his part, refused to even take a stand on the bill.
Instead, he lamely equivocated to reporters, mentioning ”pros and cons” to the bill.
The governor also mentioned South Carolina law enforcement is universally opposed to the bill. He failed to explain why law enforcement should get input on medical decisions.