An effort to save a bill that would legalize medical cannabis in South Carolina failed on Wednesday in the state legislature, dimming its prospects this year.
The State newspaper of Columbia, South Carolina reports that “House lawmakers on Wednesday voted 59-55 against an appeal proposed by House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, to keep the bill alive,” which followed a request from a Republican member of the state House that “the proposal be ruled unconstitutional since it creates a new tax, arguing that revenue-raising bills can only originate in the lower chamber.”
As the newspaper noted, the move “likely [ends] any hope of passage this year.”
It marks a disappointing development after the bill won approval in the state Senate in February. Members of that chamber deemed medical cannabis a major priority at the start of the legislative session earlier this year.
The bill’s sponsor, GOP state Sen. Tom Davis, has been pushing a medical cannabis bill since 2015.
“If you pound at the door long enough. If you make your case. If the public is asking for something, the state Senate owes a debate,” Davis told The Post and Courier in January. “The people of South Carolina deserve to know where their elected officials stand on this issue.”
Davis’s effort to get medical cannabis legalized in South Carolina has been marked by incremental progress.
Per The Post and Courier, the Senate Medical Affairs Committee brought Davis’s bill to the floor in 2018, but “opposition blocked a floor debate from ever happening.” The newspaper said that the “2021 session closed last May with GOP leadership promising Davis he’d get a vote this year.”
In February, the bill, known as the SC Compassionate Care Act, broke through and was approved in the state Senate by a vote of 28-15.
“Even those that were opposed to the bill, I mean, they could’ve just been opposed. They could’ve ranted against it, they could’ve tried to delay things. They didn’t. They expressed their concerns, but what they then did is dug in and tried to make the bill better. And so, what you saw over the last three weeks is what’s supposed to happen in a representative democracy,” Davis said at the time, as quoted by local television station WCSC.
But the dream appeared to die on Wednesday in the South Carolina House. According to The State, Davis “and other Senate leaders stood speechless in the House chamber Wednesday as they watched a last-ditch effort to save the bill fail,” with the Republican leader in the Senate saying that the procedural move could “have significant consequences on the relationship between the House and Senate.”
“We suffered a setback procedurally in the House today,” Davis said, as quoted by The State. “I can’t cry about it. I can’t pout about it. I can’t come back and lash out and try to hurt other people’s bills. That’s not productive. I just need to find out a way to get this thing on the merits up or down in the House and that’s what I’m going to be working on.”
Advocates such as Davis might be running out of moves, too. The State reported that it is not clear “whether State House leaders would be willing to put the issue on the sine die resolution, an agreement between the chambers that outlines what they can debate after the session adjourns.”
“I need to figure out if there’s another vehicle. We still have four days left in the session, lots of bills on the calendar, some involving pharmacies and medical affairs, and things of that nature,” Davis said, as quoted by The State. “And so I think there’s an opportunity and I’ll explore what they are.”