Advocates take steps towards legalizing medical cannabis in South Carolina

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

On Wednesday January 22, cannabis advocates in South Carolina stood in unison inside the State House, as they encouraged legislators to approve a medical cannabis program during this year’s legislative session. The legislature convened on January 14 and will remain in session until May 14, 2020

A measure called the ‘Compassionate Care Act otherwise known as ‘Bill 366’ is gaining plenty of exposure, thanks to the impressive turnout; a mixture of South Carolina’s patients, health care experts and veterans attended the State House discussion. 

According to the group of pro-pot advocates, “life-changing relief” could be provided to in-need patients if cannabis is legalized for medical purposes in the state, which is home to some five million people.

An overview of South Carolina’s medical cannabis bill

Cannabis in South Carolina is currently illegal for both recreational and medical purposes. However, under specific conditions, patients are allowed to use CBD (cannabidiol) oil that contains low amounts of the psychoactive cannabinoid THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). Despite restrictive rules on cannabis in the state, advocates have long been trying to sway lawmakers’ opinions on the plant.

The ‘Compassionate Care Act if approved and enacted would legalize cannabis for medical purposes. Licensed doctors would be legally allowed to prescribe medicinal-grade cannabis to patients who qualify. Based on the details of South Carolina’s medical cannabis bill, the list of qualifying conditions includes cancer, multiple sclerosis and neurological disorders. A Medical Cannabis Review Board would also be established; as per the details of Bill 366.

“When we started this, we were hopeful that we would be the first progressive Southern state. And now, we’re just hoping that we’ll be one of the last ones,” said the Executive Director of Compassionate South Carolina, Judy Ghanem. “Our goal is to expedite the process because we don’t want it to be April 15, and cross over, and then we’ll be out of luck and have to start all the way back at the beginning, yet again, while patients are suffering and dying,” added Ghanem.

The recent discussion about legalizing medical cannabis in South Carolina will have certainly created an impact on lawmakers, what with various attendees opening up about their personal stories. One such person was a man named Mihail Rusu. The state resident acts as a caretaker to his niece, who endures Lissencephaly; meaning “smooth brain”.

“We would be able to introduce THC in her system, so that can even be a better option. Maybe she will not have any seizures at all,” said Rusu. In spite of the many heart string-pulling stories shared inside the State House on January 22 in addition to the fact that medical cannabis legalization was also discussed at a sub-committee the day prior it remains uncertain as to when more testimony will be heard and when the issue will be voted on.

Misconceptions about “green” efforts preventing legal medical cannabis in South Carolina 

According to advocates of medical cannabis in South Carolina, misconceptions about their efforts have deterred many locals from supporting the cause. While Bill 366 would legalize pharmaceutical-grade cannabis for qualified patients, many state residents mistakenly believe that pro-cannabis groups are trying to legalize the plant for recreational use.

Notwithstanding, 72 percent of South Carolinians want legal weed; based on the findings of a Benchmark Research Poll.

“Our opposition consistently refers to recreational and adult-use states, and is not focused on the medical needs of patients in South Carolina. And we’re only trying to get our family members, and loved ones an option that’s less dangerous or more effective than what is currently available to them,” said Ghanem.

Unfortunately for advocates, some lawmakers are also opposed to the idea of legalizing medical cannabis in South Carolina. Attorney General Alan Wilson is one of them; lawmakers share joint concerns about the potentially detrimental effects that legalization might have on ‘mental health, employment and overall life satisfaction.’

Advocates for the ‘Compassionate Care Act’ must now wait patiently for legislators to announce a vote date.