In South Carolina, the Senate Medical Affairs Subcommittee voted unanimously to advance S672, a bill that would legalize medical marijuana in the state. The five-person panel came to the decision after a two-hour hearing where panel members heard from both opponents and supporters of the bill.
Many of the members who spoke out against the bill were members of the South Carolina law enforcement community. According to the Associated Press, State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel told the panel that S672 was one of the worst bills he has seen in 40 years.
“This puts South Carolina in the position of approving a crude street drug to treat almost anything,” said Keel. “Just because it was created by God and put on this earth doesn’t mean it’s safe for human consumption.”
Keel went on to say that if the legislature passed S672, it would be akin to returning to the days of snake oils, and that it would lead to more teen use. State Sen. Tom Davis, a Republican from Beaufort, S.C., and the bill’s sponsor, rejected the notion.
“This is an extremely tight, conservative small step forward….” Davis said. “Yet, we have this 1960s, 1970s reefer madness mentality that…all sorts of parades of horrors will happen if we allow medicine to be put in the hands of the people who need it. To me that’s just not persuasive.”
If passed, S672 would allow patients with qualifying conditions to possess up to two ounces of marijuana. Although there is no provision for home cultivation, licensed caregivers would be allowed to cultivate marijuana for patients.
In contrast to other laws that list a limited number of qualifying conditions, S672 has a very long and specific list of qualifying conditions. Included are the commonly listed conditions, such as cancer, ALS, and HIV, among others.
The bill will now move to the full committee. Although it is impossible to predict what kind of reception S672 will receive, on paper the prospects look good.
With the Medical Affairs Subcommittee unanimously signing off on the bill, supporters already have a guaranteed five votes. With 16 members on the panel, bill supporters would only need to pick up an additional four votes to pass it, and with several Democratic members on the panel, that is an obtainable goal.
The committee will take up the bill in January when the legislature reconvenes.