Medical marijuana bill stalls in SC House of Representatives as legislative work comes to a close

A years-long effort to legalize marijuana for medical use only in South Carolina may have to wait another year.

The legislative session still lasts less than two weeks. Starting Wednesday, that's five days before lawmakers finish their work for the year.

And Republican Sen. Tom Davis's bill, which passed the Senate earlier this year, remains stuck in a House committee.

“I intentionally, you know, got the Senate to move it up, and move it up quickly,” Davis told SC Public Radio. “I believe it was distributed the first or second week of February to get it to them on time. So they had over two months and it was just sitting in committee. And that’s frustrating.” .”

The bill, called the Compassionate Care Act, would legalize marijuana only for use in oils, patches, ointments and vaporizers.

It could only be prescribed by a doctor for certain uses. These include cancer, multiple sclerosis, sickle cell anemia, Crohn's disease, neurological diseases or disorders such as epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Davis, a Beaufort-based state senator, has advocated for medical cannabis use for a decade.

Two years ago, the Senate passed Davis' proposal. The House of Representatives rejected the decision on technical grounds.

So, as in previous years, Davis tightened the bill to appease suspicious colleagues.

“South Carolina is a more conservative state than California, New York and Illinois,” he said. “And so I make no apology for the fact that this is a very conservative, highly regulated bill.”

Davis' colleagues aren't the only group the senator has had to appease.

Most law enforcement agencies are against it.

This includes Mark Keel, chief of the state's law enforcement agency.

“You know, I've heard some people say, 'Chief, we have it in 33 other states, so what's the difference?' “Well, we're learning what's happening in these 33 other states,” Keel testified before an ad hoc committee of the S.C. House of Representatives last week. “We don’t have to be like them. South Carolina is different, and that’s why people move here, that’s why the industry comes here.”

In addition to his own warnings about the bill, Keel told lawmakers he might be willing to withdraw his opposition under one condition.

“The day the FDA approves it, you will never see me downtown again. I will never appear before another committee again,” Keel testified.

There's no telling when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will ever approve marijuana for medical use.

But on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that the Drug Enforcement Administration plans to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug.

It is a huge political change that is sure to motivate its supporters.

Supporters like Jeff Moore, the 32-year-old former director of the state's Sheriff's Association.

“It freed him from the nightmares, the sadness, the constant tears and gave him a chance to get his life back on track,” Moore told the same lawmakers last week about his son, a high school dropout who joined the Army at 18 and was deployed to Iraq.

Moore said he came home a different person after witnessing the deaths of five friends and the death of a 6-year-old girl who was killed by a grenade during a house search.

During a later deployment to South Korea, his son became addicted to alcohol.

That was his downfall, Moore said.

He moved to Michigan, where marijuana is legal, and was in and out of rehab.

Today he is 36, married and has a degree in psychology and sociology.

He now works with people who have drug problems.

Moore attributes his son's turnaround in part to marijuana.

“He knows it because he went through it, he lived it and came out the other end,” Moore testified through tears. “Wouldn’t you want that for your son? Or? I couldn't be prouder of him. I couldnt do that.”

Senator Davis said he would respect the outcome. He just wants to see a vote in the House of Representatives.

If the bill does not come into force by May 9, it will have to be resubmitted next year.

Anna Harden

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