Legislators hope 2017 is the year for medical pot in SC



Dixie Pace, 18, has benefited from cannabidiol oil, which has reduced the amount of seizures she has and the amount of medications she takes. Pace and her mother April Pace were at a State House rally to legalize medical marijuana on Wednesday, May 20. mwalsh@thestate.com

S.C. legislators are gearing up for another fight over a bill that would allow the legal use of medical marijuana in the Palmetto State.

A half-dozen lawmakers Tuesday made their first order of business on the session’s opening day the unveiling of the S.C. Compassionate Care Act.

The bill would allow South Carolinians with “debilitating medical conditions” to use medical pot, when approved by a doctor.

Last year, bipartisan efforts to legalize medical marijuana died in House and Senate committees. That effort was opposed by law enforcement officials, who said they feared that legalizing medical marijuana would lead to more pot being available in the state for non-medical uses.

State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, said the proposal includes safeguards that would prevent medical pot from being diverted to recreational use, including “seed-to-sale” tracking of the medicinal plants that would be monitored by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

“South Carolinians draw a line between (recreational) cannabis and alcohol,” Davis said. “That’s not the debate we’re having in South Carolina.”

Davis repeatedly cited a poll showing 78 percent of South Carolinians support legalizing marijuana for medical use. He hopes the bill’s chances will be boosted by the the stories of South Carolinians who struggle with conditions that could be alleviated by using cannabis.

In 2014, Jill Swing of Mount Pleasant pushed the Legislature to legalize the marijuana derivative cannabidoil for medical use, hoping to alleviate her daughter’s violent seizures. But she said she quickly realized her family had few legal avenues to access the drug.

“Last summer, we reached our breaking point,” Swing said. “We became medical cannabis refugees in Maine, where she could be treated with higher levels of THC (the psychoactive element of cannabis) than is legal here.”

Bristow Marchant: 803-771-8405@bristowathome@buzzatthestate

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