Two South Carolina bills planned for introduction in 2017 would legalize medical cannabis for qualifying patients in the state, effectively nullifying the unconstitutional federal prohibition on the same. South Carolina is one of the many Southern states that allow the use of cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive cannabinoid, for specific medical conditions. However, the Palmetto state has fallen short in passing a full-plant system, but this year activists are optimistic about the state finally passing legislation allowing real medical cannabis.
Pre-filed legislation by Rep. Todd Rutherford (D-Columbia), House Bill 3128 (H.3128) called the “Put Patients First Act,” would allow qualifying medical patients the ability to possess “up to two ounces of a usable form of marijuana” as well as grow rights of “up to six marijuana plants, with three or fewer being mature, flowering plants that are producing a usable form of marijuana” without being persecuted by state-level officials. The bill would also put penalties on people who try to obtain the marijuana through fraud. H.3128 and H.3162 will need to be formally introduced and pass their committee assignments before the bills can be considered by the full House.
Patients would be eligible to qualify for medical cannabis if they suffer from one of the following ailments listed in H.3128:
(a) cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, and acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or treatment for these conditions;
(b) a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition, or treatment of that disease or medical condition, that results in one or more of the following symptoms, and for which, in the professional opinion of that patient’s physician, the use of medical marijuana would alleviate one or more of the symptoms:
(ii) severe pain;
(iii) severe nausea;
(iv) seizures, including those that are characteristic of epilepsy; or
(v) persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis; and
(c) another disease or medical condition, or treatment of that disease or medical condition, determined by the department to be a debilitating medical condition pursuant to department regulation or department approval of a petition submitted by a patient or a patient’s physician.
Rep. Rutherford also pre-filed a second bill, House Bill 3162 (H.3162) – to provide medical marijuana for certain military veterans. The bill would allow military veterans who were discharged in honorable fashion and later diagnosed with PTSD “to possess twenty-eight grams or one ounce or less of marijuana or ten grams or less of hashish.”
“The time has come to put aside archaic misconceptions of medical marijuana and put patients first,” said Rep. Rutherford said in a WLTX report. “I hear devastating stories every single day from people who are battling epilepsy or suffering from a brain tumor who desperately need medical marijuana to treat the debilitating symptoms.”
Medical cannabis first appeared in South Carolina law in 1980 in the controlled substance therapeutic research act. The law allowed the use of cannabidiol in research, but it had to be approved by the FDA. It wasn’t until 2007, 27 years later, that House Bill 220 tried to establish a medical cannabis system. That bill didn’t pass, but set the groundwork for a future medical cannabis program in South Carolina by establishing an affirmative defense and protection from arrest for some medical users.
In 2014, Senate Bill 880 passed, which allowed for the creation of industrial hemp farms. That same day, Governor Nicky Hally signed Senate Bill 1035, which allowed children to use cannabidiol in research trials, provided protection from arrest for parents whose children use cannabidiol, and established a committee to study the sale of medical cannabis. These bills both passed, confirming that South Carolina was indeed ready to move towards safe access of medical cannabis and beyond simple prohibition.
S.C. Senator Tom Davis, who has been leading the fight in the S.C. General Assembly for several years against intense institutional opposition of medical cannabis, got a big win over government-funded lobbyists in early 2016. In securing passage of an amendment that allows the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) to study medical cannabis as a way of helping victims of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
South Carolinians overwhelmingly support legalizing medical cannabis, according to a Winthrop Poll, questions were asked for The State newspaper and nearly four in five South Carolina residents — or 78 percent — support legalizing medical cannabis. Increasing access to medical cannabis and asserting the rights of these patients in the palmetto state is a continuing effort being supporting with four dedicated SC NORML Chapters.