Medical Marijuana Bill Advances Out Of Committee In South Carolina House

Photo Credit: Scott Suchy

A bill that would widen the pool of patients eligible for medical marijuana products in South Carolina is ready for debate in the State House after getting the approval of a medical committee Thursday morning.

The Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs Committee has approved H. 3521, also known as the “S.C. Compassionate Care Act.”

The bill would allow doctors to prescribe patients suffering from certain conditions with medical marijuana and marijuana-infused products. The allowed “debilitating” conditions include cancer, glaucoma, HIV, Hepatitis C, Crohn’s disease, PTSD, autism, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s, as well as any condition causing debilitating pain, severe nausea, and seizures.

The Senate Medical Affairs Committee approved a similar bill on an 8-6 vote last month, according to the Associated Press. In 2014, lawmakers passed a bill allowing for the treatment of epilepsy with non-psychoactive cannabidiol products, which are derived from the cannabis plant, within clinical trials.

Under the law, an “allowable amount of medical cannabis” is defined as two ounces.

Patients would need to obtain a valid registry card from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

The bi-partisan bill was introduced in January and is sponsored by 24 members of the House, including five— Reps. Gilliard, McCoy, Stavrinakis, Mace, and Bennett—from the Charleston area.

“I believe we did the right thing by approving this bill,” said committee chair Rep. Leon Howard (D-Columbia) in a statement. “Our intent is to help the thousands of patients who can benefit from this medical treatment, including retired military personnel and children who suffer from debilitating illnesses.”

Howard warned that the road ahead for a medical marijuana bill in S.C. remains rocky.

“I want supporters of the bill to understand that it is highly unlikely that this bill or any other medical cannabis bill becomes law during this legislative session,” Howard added. “That makes it all the more important to contact your elected officials and urging them to support this bill.”

A 2016 Winthrop poll showed that about 80 percent of South Carolinians surveyed supported legalizing marijuana for medical uses. Twenty-nine states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have legalized medical marijuana.