A six-member South Carolina House subcommittee this week will decide whether to advance a Senate-approved proposal legalizing medical marijuana, reports The State.
State Sen. Tom Davis, a Beauford Republican, sponsors S. 150, the “Compassionate Care Act.” A House Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs subcommittee is scheduled to discuss the bill at 9 a.m. Thursday. The panel chair is state Rep. Chris Hart (D-Richland).
State residents suffering from specific medical conditions, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, post traumatic stress disorder, chronic conditions causing serious muscle spasms. The legislation also covers patients with chronic or debilitating conditions where opioids are prescribed. Medical marijuana patients are able to access specific forms of Cannabis only through a licensed doctor in person in the bill.
Two-Week Supply. No Flowers. No Smoking.
This odd and silly notion by lawmakers that medical marijuana patients are some sort of hopeless addicts, helpless to control their dope-taking impulses, is unfortunately the working paradigm here.
Patients would only have access to a two-week supply of marijuana. Cannabis would be in the form of oils, vaporizers, salves, lotions and creams and patches at medical dispensaries. There will be no legal flowers. There will be no legal smoking.
The bill includes a 6% sales tax and would give cities and counties the power to prohibit marijuana in their jurisdiction.
“Faster Than The Speed Of Light”
Supporters of the medical marijuana bill said they hope it can help lessen pain for users and also alleviate the South Carolina’s opioid crisis. The bill will likely get approval by the Democrat-majority subcommittee and make it to the full House for debate, said chairman Rep. Leon Howard (D-Richland).
Commonly referred to as “3M,” it is the only legislative panel in the GOP-controlled chamber chaired by a Democrat. And it’s also the only House committee where Democrats make up the majority of its members.
The bill is “moving faster than the speed of light,” Howard told The State last week.
Back in February, the South Carolina Senate approved an earlier version of the bill. But the South Carolina House didn’t pass that iteration.
The GOP-controlled South Carolina Senate in February voted 28-15 to pass the medical marijuana bill over the opposition of many in law enforcement and conservative groups.
Senators heavily amended the legislation in hopes to smooth its passage. GOP lawmakers advanced more than 50 amendments .
Some on-the-fence senators who voted to advance the bill defended their vote in hopes that South Carolina’s dependency on opioid use lessens. They cited more than 1,000 opioid-related deaths that occurred in the state in 2020.
“It Deserves A Fair Hearing”
“I hope and pray that this is part of the solution. If it’s not, we gave it a shot,” an ambivalent state Sen. Sean Bennett (R-Dorchester) said before Senate vote. “But I hope that some people get some help and the help that they need. And I hope that we haven’t created something that we’re going to look back on as a Frankenstein monster and have to fix. But I’m ready to do that if we have to.”
State Rep. Joe Bustos, the sole Republican on the House panel set to discuss the bill Thursday, has questions about the bill’s implementation. But Bustos, a Charleston Republican, said if Cannabis can help reduce a patient’s pain then he leans toward supporting it.
“It deserves a fair hearing,” Bustos said.
Time Is Running Short
If the bill advances, the House will have less than two months to debate it. This comes amid a crush of legislation lawmakers are pushing aggressively pushing before the legislative working session ends in mid-May.
Bills failing to become law must be refiled next year to get another shot. It took Davis roughly seven years to get this legislation out of the Senate.
Republican Gov. Henry McMaster has yet to say whether he’d sign the legislation or veto it.