A bill that would legalize medical marijuana in South Carolina overcame a key hurdle this week when a Senate committee approved the legislation in an 8-6 vote. The bill now heads to the Senate floor.
While other conservative states have passed some sort of medical marijuana legislation in recent years, most of them restrict in-state production or limit medical cannabis products to cannabidiol (CBD) oil, including South Carolina.
The latest bill, sponsored by Republican State Senator Tom Davis, goes further by allowing the possession of up to two ounces of medical marijuana. It also establishes a regulated medical cannabis industry in the state so patients are not forced to seek medicine through illicit means.
Although the legislation is moving forward in the Senate, the House version of the bill is stuck in committee, facing an April 10 deadline to advance.
And despite Davis’s advocacy for medical marijuana legalization, he doesn’t think the measure has a chance of success: “It is not going to get passed this year unless some sort of miracle happens,” he told the Independent Mail.
Polls have found 61 percent to 78 percent of South Carolinians support legalizing medical marijuana.
Despite the bill’s slim chances of success, the fact that comprehensive medical marijuana legislation has made it to the Senate floor shows lawmakers’ shifting attitudes towards cannabis. Republicans in Bible Belt states are increasingly supportive of adopting medical marijuana programs that once were the purview of their liberal counterparts. Inevitably, such legislation continues to draw opposition from the law enforcement community.
In Tennessee, a House committee advanced medical marijuana legislation on Wednesday, despite opposition from law enforcement and health officials. While that bill would protect a medical marijuana patient from being charged with possession, it does not set up a regulated market for patients to access cannabis from.
While lawmakers are increasingly following public opinion on the issue of medical marijuana, there are still plenty of them who continue to oppose patient access on outdated stereotypes of marijuana consumers.
South Carolina Senator Tom Corbin, who voted against Davis’s bill on Thursday, recounted the time his family vacationed in Humboldt County, Calif. “Every corner was just flooded with people with backpacks that were obviously homeless,” he said. “Boys you see what happens when you get hooked on pot?” he asked his sons. “You lose everything you got including your house and your possessions.”
While opponents have argued that marijuana legalization contributes to homelessness, researchers at the Colorado State University-Pueblo found no evidence to support this claim.