On Wednesday, South Carolina lawmakers pre-filed a series of cannabis bills ahead of the start of the state’s legislative session, which begins in January. The bills range from legalizing medical cannabis to asking voters in 2022 whether lawmakers should take up adult use legalization.
A rising number of southern states, like Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, and, on Election Day, Mississippi, have legalized medical cannabis, joining dozens of states across the US. And South Carolina lawmakers’ inclusion of broader cannabis reform legislation is in line with recent activity in neighboring states. Virginia’s governor approved decriminalization legislation in 2020 and has announced his support for adult use legalization in 2021, following the release of a state task force report on how best to regulate the industry. Last month, as Cannabis Wire also reported, in North Carolina, a task force convened by Governor Roy Cooper recommended a similar path: decriminalization, and a study of legalized adult use sales.
One bill, the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act, was introduced by two Republican lawmakers: Senator Tom Davis, who has long supported medical cannabis, and Representative Bill Herbkersman. The companion bills have many similarities, but noteworthy differences as well. While both would set up a medical cannabis program that would allow qualifying South Carolina patients to buy medical cannabis from dispensaries, for example, the House version takes a less restrictive approach to qualifying conditions.
“I feel there is a very good chance we get something passed this session. This bill has been fully vetted after five years of testimony and input from various stakeholders. The time has come for lawmakers to get out of the way and allow patients, in consultation with their physicians, to legally and safely access medicinal cannabis,” Davis said in a statement.
South Carolina lawmakers are also exploring decriminalization and legal sales. One bill pre-filed in the Senate, S. 268, which has been referred it to the Committee on Medical Affairs, is a joint resolution that aims “to provide for a statewide advisory referendum” to be held during the 2022 general election, to “determine whether the qualified electors of this state favor legalization of marijuana for recreational use.” Along these lines, lawmakers also pre-filed S. 335, a bill to “decriminalize marijuana and to provide for the regulation of marijuana.”
House lawmakers also pre-filed H. 3228, a bill that would decriminalize possession of up to 28 grams of cannabis, or up to an ounce of hashish, and allow police to issue a citation, as well as H. 3202, which would do the same, but only apply to honorably discharged veterans.