Legalization initiatives are spreading worldwide, but medical cannabis still isn’t widely available across America. Several states in the country are still seeking to establish medical marijuana programs. Some face setbacks in their respective State’s Senate as they watch the rest of the legalized market flourish and reap the benefits that the cannabis market brings.
South Carolina, for instance, remains one of the fourteen states in America that prohibits cannabis for recreational and medicinal use. However, that appears to be on pace to change soon. Per Marijuana Moment, a leading sponsor for a medical marijuana bill revealed that the issue will head to the Senate floor this week. Republican Sen. Tom Davis said that he had discussions with Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey about the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act. Davis noted that Massey committed to discussing the bill as “one of the very first things we take up” in the chamber in the coming session.
Davis made the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act a pertinent issue in the chamber this year, which means cannabis reform could be imminent. According to Davis, there’s a pact that the subject of a medical marijuana program is considered a special order. Senators will take up no other legislation will be taken up until voting on the matter.
South Carolina stands in the minority of states who’ve pushed forward with passing cannabis legislation, but Davis’ advocacy on the matter has maintained strong momentum. He recently stood alongside patients and medical cannabis supporters during a rally where he vowed to combat every single argument against the legislation. Davis said that there had been eight years of research into medical marijuana. “I’m going to show that they cannot stand in the way of facts and evidence,” he told supporters at the rally as he held a large binder that contained documents from the years of research.
Davis continued to rally supporters within the house, including House Speaker Jay Lucas, who he said would “allow the bill to go through the House process” if it successfully moved through the Senate. He expressed optimism about the bill moving forward within the next three to four months, anticipating that Gov. Henry McMaster will “finally make us not one of the 14 states that refuse to acknowledge medicine, but one of the 37 states that has recognized it.”
South Carolina legislation remains widely conservative, which has created an uphill battle in Davis’ seven-plus year efforts to legalize medical marijuana. The State reports Republican Sen. Sandy Senn expressed concerns that passing this legislation would open the doors for recreational cannabis to infiltrate the State. David explained that the South Carolina Legislature remains overtly conservative, and it seemed highly unlikely that would occur. He explained other states where medical programs led to establishing an adult-use retail market were far more liberal than S.C.
However, this also led to questions on whether the bill itself would face abuse. Davis reassured opponents of the bill that there would be rigid laws to prevent the loosening of restrictions. Touted as one of the most conservative medical cannabis bills in the country, Davis said there would be limited access to cannabis products which would solely include oils, extracts, lotions and creams, oils for vape cartridges, edibles, and capsules. Smokeable cannabis would remain prohibited, even to medical cannabis patients.
As concerns rose about doctors potentially abusing their responsibility to prescribe cannabis to patients, Davis also explained a short list of conditions that would make patients eligible to access the cannabis program. Under the bill, only patients diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, cancer, epilepsy, seizures, and terminal illnesses will be able to receive a prescription for marijuana. Doctors would also have the authority to provide a medical cannabis prescription instead of opioids for chronic or debilitating conditions. Additionally, Davis’ bill enforces that patients must have a long-standing history with the doctor providing the medication with detailed accounts of their background regarding mental illness, medical history, substance abuse, and family medical history. There would also be a provision explicitly stating that doctors must prove that any other form of medication has not proven effective.
“It’s not discretionary. It’s not, ‘they can do it if they want to,'” Davis said. “It’s what they have to do and certify in writing.” Still, Davis admitted there’s still room for improvement, including an amendment to the bill that would bring in pharmacists’ expertise at cannabis dispensaries.