Momentum for legal medical cannabis began to bud at South Carolina’s Statehouse Wednesday, as patients, doctors, advocacy groups, and lawmakers gathered to call on the Senate to pass a medical cannabis bill this year.
S.C. Compassionate Care Act sponsors Sen. Tom Davis and Sen. Stephen Goldfinch, and Candace Carroll, the state director for Americans for Prosperity South Carolina, were joined by veterans, patients, and caregivers who all made the case for medical cannabis in the state.
The Senate is expected to hold a floor vote on the Act, S. 150, next week on “special order,” a rule that bumps the bill to the top of the calendar. The bill, which is carried over from last year’s legislative session, would create a seed-to-sale regulated system for patients to purchase medical cannabis. It would allow people with qualifying conditions, like neurological diseases, cancer, multiple sclerosis, and post-traumatic stress disorder to, with a doctor’s recommendation, purchase medical cannabis. It would also create the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board.
On Wednesday, Davis pointed to Mississippi’s recent traction, where the Senate voted last week 47-5 in favor of SB 2095, a bill to legalize medical cannabis, after more than three hours of discussion.
“Meanwhile, here in South Carolina, law enforcement torches farmers’ industrial hemp fields. We’re better than this, and I am confident that next week the South Carolina Senate will take the first step toward proving that,” Davis said.
Americans for Prosperity SC, the state’s branch of the national libertarian organization, founded by David and Charles Koch, live streamed the news conference.
“It’s true that drug use — especially substance use disorders — can stop people from succeeding in life and can exacerbate safety concerns,” Candace Carroll, the state director for Americans for Prosperity SC told Cannabis Wire by email.
“Pure drug prohibition and enforcement has been ineffective at reducing these problems and has prevented many from accessing alternative treatments that may be the most effective manner to deal with their health problems.”
South Carolina has been in the cannabis spotlight in recent weeks for a different reason, too: US Rep. Nancy Mace, of South Carolina, released the States Reform Act in November, the most comprehensive legalization plan to emerge in Congress from the Republican party.
“This legislation, I believe, has something good for everyone, whether you are a Democrat or a Republican,” Mace said as she revealed her bill.
Mace is not new to support for medical cannabis, as she was a co-sponsor to the Compassionate Care Act when she served in the SC House of Representatives.
Still, this early momentum doesn’t guarantee legislative progress on cannabis in South Carolina.
“Some of the greatest hurdles will be the socially conservative mindset of many of our lawmakers,” Jill Swing, spokesperson for S.C. Compassionate Care Alliance, told Cannabis Wire.
And it also appears that there’s a firm line between conversations about legalization for medical purposes, and legalization for adult use. Swing said that she’s spoken to “many” senators and the most frequent comment that she fields is that “they won’t support the legalization of medical cannabis because they are afraid it will lead to legalization for recreational use.”
“They simply don’t want that. But they are the only ones who can make that happen since we don’t have ballot initiatives here in South Carolina,” Swing said. “They just have fear of the unknown.”