There's a strong, growing movement in the State House that could change the future of medical marijuana in our state.
It might surprise you, but medical marijuana was actually legalized in South Carolina back in 1982. However, there's no way to actually distribute it due to existing federal law that states distributing it is illegal.
That's bad news for many around the state like 'Mandy' -- who we won't fully identify.
Mandy says she's taken Lortabs, Valium, and Percocet to alleviate what she calls debilitating pain from an illness that's nearly left her bedridden.
Instead, Mandy has turned to marijuana to help manage that pain.
"My pain level can go from a nine down to around a five," said Mandy. "It can take me from not being able to walk to at least being able to walk inside the house again. I feel like a criminal, I do. I apologize to the people around me all the time."
But if some state leaders get their way, Mandy won't have to apologize for long. At least two proposals in the legislature seek to overhaul the existing medical marijuana law.
"The number of things marijuana is proven to treat is incredible," said House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford. "The number of medical doctors who've called me over the break and said we need to do this is incredible."
"Why wouldn't we allow that to be prescribed and provide relief to South Carolinians if doctors think it could help," asked Sen. Tom Davis.
However, not all doctors agree it would help.
"We have abuse of prescription medications and over-the-counter medications and if we add medical marijuana to that mix, it is also subject to that abuse," said Dr. Bruce Snyder, president of the South Carolina Medical Association.
Several studies show deaths from prescription drug overdoses have quadrupled during the last decade. But studies about the potential benefits of marijuana are much harder to find.
"Marijuana is a schedule one substance, similar to heroin, so it is not available to study," said Snyder. "That's one of our frustrations."
Mandy says she would she'd move to a pro-marijuana state like Colorado if she could handle the cold. But here in South Carolina, the future of medical marijuana usage for people like Mandy rests in the hands of lawmakers.
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