COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - The sponsor of a bill that would legalize medical marijuana in South Carolina says he has the votes to pass it out of the SC Senate by the end of next week.
The bill was voted out of the Senate Medical Affairs committee Wednesday by a 9-5 vote.
Bill sponsor Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, says he has been fighting for the legal use and sale of medical marijuana for the past seven years but is confident this latest version will pass out of the upper chamber.
“This bill is so conservative,” Davis told reporters. “It addresses all unintended consequences.”
The bill allows people with cancer, epilepsy, Chron’s disease, autism, post-traumatic stress disorder (with confirmation that someone has experienced a traumatic event), and other “debilitating medical condition” to purchase medical marijuana if use is approved by a licensed doctor.
Davis says when drafting the legislation, he met with members of the business, medical, and law enforcement community to make sure their main concerns were addressed in the bill.
If the bill were to pass, no smokable cannabis products may be sold, no user can operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana, employers will not be forced to allow employees to use marijuana while at work or while working, and each dispensary must employ a pharmacists or other medical professional.
“It’s a completely regulated process from seed to sale,” Davis said.
However, opponents say they still have concerns.
The bill does not have the support of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and the South Carolina Medical Association. Both groups say they don’t feel comfortable with the distribution of a drug that has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
“When medicine goes through the normal FDA approval process, no legislation is needed. That’s not what we are dealing with when discussing marijuana. Doctor’s cannot legally prescribe it. Pharmacists cannot legally dispense it. There is no way to accurately dose it,” SLED Chief Mark Keel wrote in a statement to WIS. “In my opinion, this bill is not about medicine. It’s about legalizing marijuana in South Carolina,” Keel added.
Senators from both sides of the aisle echoed SLED’s concerns.
“The legislative branch of the federal government is not standing in the way, but why hasn’t Congress passed a bill to legalize medical marijuana in the country,” Sen. Kevin Johnson, D-Clarendon, said.
“Our federal government has declared these drugs, marijuana, to be an illegal substance it’s a scheduled drug. Either we are going to become a sanctuary state for medical marijuana, or we are not.” Sen. Billy Garrett, R-McCormick, said. “If we are conservative, we are supposed to follow the law.”
Davis added it doesn’t make sense to him that his same colleagues who supported a bill banning most abortions in the state, going against Roe V Wade in his opinion, are now placing more weight on the actions of the federal government when weighing their vote for his bill.
When asked about his communications with Gov. Henry McMaster, R-South Carolina, Davis said that in a previous comment with reporters McMaster has expressed openness to signing the bill into law after it goes through the legislative process.
Army veteran Rosemary Wallace drove from Rock Hill to Columbia Wednesday for the committee hearing and said she has been following Sen. Davis’ efforts to pass this bill for nearly seven years.
Wallace said she suffers from heart issues, chronic pain, and other long-term illnesses, but finds that marijuana helps ease her suffering. She says she wishes this bill would go further and allow the use of smokable marijuana but is still thrilled the bill is advancing the full senate.
“Our friends, family members, and all are suffering way too much to pick and choose. We can’t pick and choose, we have to get this done now,” Wallace said.
She said she currently uses medical marijuana that she purchased from Colorado and Florida but wishes she didn’t need to.
“This is my home, so why should I be in a state that I can’t even get help in and I have to go to another state to get help. That’s not right,” she said.