The great feat of legalizing medical marijuana in the South Carolina state has gained significant traction after lawmakers recently pre-filed two bills for the 2023 legislative session in favor of legalizing the use of medical cannabis. With a lot riding on both bills, if either one gains momentum, then the Palmetto state could soon join the 37 others who have managed to legalize medical cannabis.
The Divide: Medical Or Recreational?
According to a poll conducted by Winthrop University last year, more than three-fourths of South Carolina voters are, in fact, in favor of medical marijuana use. Scott Huffmon, director of the Winthrop Poll, said that support for medical marijuana had been growing in South Carolina, with sizable majorities from both parties leaning in its favor. The poll weighted the opinion of some 1298 respondents.
However, when asked about recreational marijuana use, this figure drops by about half. While 78% of adults want to see marijuana legalized for medical purposes, only 54% are in favor of legalizing cannabis for recreational consumption.
What The Bills Entail
The first of the pre-filed bills, known as the Put Patients First Act, would allow patients to use medical marijuana and authorize dispensing across the state.
Sponsored by Minority Leader Todd Rutherford and Rep. Jay Kilmartin, the Put Patients First Act would make cannabis available to patients who qualify and can register with a doctor’s recommendation. Moreover, the bill would also allow caregivers and dispensaries to cultivate, grow and dispense cannabis strictly for medical use.
The Put Patients First Act would place great emphasis on the need for patients to be registered, thereby allowing them certain protections under the Act. Similarly, it will protect physicians who dispense medical marijuana to needy patients from criminal liability.
Second in line is the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act, which, much like the first, would authorize patients to use medical marijuana in the case of severe debilitating medical conditions under the care of a physician, with exceptions as detailed in the bill’s text.
In stark contrast, the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act would look at cultivating greater urgency in the regulation of medical cannabis and users alike. It goes on to detail the creation of a medical cannabis advisory board and the provision of legislation to govern medical cannabis establishments and their regulation in their region.
Policy-Making At Its Worst
Together with states like Texas, Wyoming, Idaho, and Kansas, South Carolina has proven extremely resistant to efforts to legalize marijuana. More concerning is that while the state has GOP Congresswoman Nancy Mace actively involved in marijuana advocacy and policy-making for federal legalization, they are yet to legalize medical marijuana use.
Most of Rep. Mace’s recent efforts to legalize cannabis across the board include a bill she recently filed in the hopes of providing federal tax relief for marijuana businesses by amending the IRS’s 280E Code.
While her efforts certainly don’t go unnoticed in the fight for marijuana legalization, one would think a state like South Carolina would want to get the basics right first in service of the ill people who require relief through the consumption of medical marijuana.
Overall, when looking at policy-making, it appears that opposing lawmakers are and have been somewhat flippant in their gazetting of legislation pertaining to marijuana. Something like, ‘if it causes assault to an already ailing industry, let’s run with it.’
With gross pushback against its legalization by lawmakers and some sects of the public, this reaction seems almost unwarranted when considering the ample economic benefits that could stem from a cannabis industry that isn’t under strain by the laws that govern it.
When it comes to medical marijuana use, it feels like a societal responsibility to mitigate human suffering. As the Put Patients First Act suggests, lawmakers and the public alike ought to look at the crux of the matter – that if cannabis has the ability to relieve the pain and symptoms of debilitating illness, then we should let nature do what it is meant to. Whether this perspective will be considered when debated in session is another story altogether.
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