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Medical Marijuana Bill Moves Forward in South Carolina

A medical marijuana bill moves forward in South Carolina. But will it ultimately be signed into law?

A.J. Herrington

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After action by a legislative committee, the medical marijuana bill moves forward in South Carolina. Members of the House Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs (3M) Committee voted 14-3 to send the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act to the full House for consideration. The bill would allow seriously ill patients with a doctor’s recommendation to use medical marijuana to treat their conditions.

Janel Ralph is the executive director of the advocacy group Compassionate South Carolina. Her eight-year-old daughter has a rare seizure disorder. She said the that the committee’s vote is a step in the right direction.

“The diligent work of patients, advocates, and supportive lawmakers is paying off, and South Carolinians are closer to finding relief with medical cannabis than ever before,” Ralph said.

“This issue needs to stay at the forefront of the legislature’s attention, and we will continue working to educate them about the need for a compassionate medical cannabis program in our state. Patients will continue to suffer until this bill is passed and implemented.”

“We commend lawmakers for allowing the Compassionate Care Act to progress this far, and urge them not to delay taking it up when the next legislative session begins,” she added.

Democrat Leon Howard represents Columbia in the House and is the chair of the 3M committee. He told local media that the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act would be a positive measure for the state.

“I believe we did the right thing by approving this bill,” Howard said. “Our intent is to help the thousands of patients who can benefit from this medical treatment, including retired military personnel and children who suffer from debilitating illnesses.”

But, he said, those patients will probably have to continue to wait.

“I want supporters of the bill to understand that it is highly unlikely that this bill or any other medical cannabis bill becomes law during this legislative session. That makes it all the more important to contact your elected officials and urging them to support this bill.”

Senate Passed Version Last Month

The Senate Medical Affairs Committee passed a similar measure in March by a vote of 8-6. Under the proposals, patients with “debilitating” conditions would be allowed to use medical marijuana and cannabis products.

The law defines an “allowable amount of medical cannabis” as up to two ounces. The law makes patients with cancer, HIV, PTSD and conditions causing severe pain, nausea or seizures eligible to use medical marijuana. They would have to receive a card from the Department of Health and Environmental Control in order to participate.

A 2014 law allows South Carolina epilepsy patients limited access to medicinal cannabis. But they can use only CBD, and only in approved clinical trials.

Final Hit: Medical Marijuana Bill Moves Forward in South Carolina

Legislative procedures will prevent the Compassionate Care Act from being made law this session because a key deadline has already passed. But activists believe the committee votes in the House and Senate will lead to passage of the bill next year.

A 2016 poll by Winthrop found that 78 percent of South Carolinians support legalizing medical marijuana.

A.J. Herrington is a San Diego-based writer and photographer covering cannabis and the environment.

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