SC: Seminar Advocates For Medical Cannabis

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Ron Strider

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Retired military veteran Mark Montrose and his wife were jubilant when they received the call that after two years of waiting, the couple could pick up their newly-adopted baby girl Mary-Kate.

But that joy would not last.

A regular four-month checkup led to an emergency trip to the Medical University of South Carolina Children’s Hospital. Mary-Kate had suffered an inter-uterine stroke with permanent neurological impairment. She was later diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Before reaching age 10, she began to have seizures and underwent multiple brain, eye, and leg surgeries.

And if that wasn’t agonizing enough, Montrose said the medicines that doctors prescribed for his daughter all produced the same outcome – ‘temporarily effective but with some terrible side effects.’

“The medicines were horrible,†Montrose told a group of about 30 guests at Dorchester County Library in Summerville on Thursday. “The side effects made her feel like an animal.â€

Then, in 2015, South Carolina passed a bill legalizing cannabidoil, or CBD oil, which contains very low doses of THC and is derived from the hemp plant. Skeptically, Mark and wife tried the medication.

“It worked,†he said. “Not only did it work. It reduced her seizures. We took her off of two prescription medications and a crazy diet.â€

A handful of people echoed Montrose’s concern at a seminar held by Compassionate SC, a patient advocacy organization promoting access to alternative healthcare. The group formed initially to advocate the passage of South Carolina’s Compassionate Care Act – a bill that could potentially legalize the medical use of cannabis for individuals with certain illnesses like cancer, HIV/AIDS, autism and others.

The bill, which was introduced to the statehouse last January and currently sits in a medical subcommittee, highlights cannabis’ proved ability to alleviate cancer symptoms, such as pain and nausea.

Supporters of the bill maintain that cannabis provides an alternative as it has limited side effects.

“We as a people have to demand not settle for what’s sold to us,†said former Navy veteran and now registered nurse Don Howell.

Howell, who was involved in a ‘bomb blast’ while in the service, said medical marijuana can help heal soldiers who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He said he visits annually with soldiers who were victims of the attack.

“I look amongst those survivors and you can see they’re very broken men with alcohol issues and drug issues,†Howell said. “These are the men we are trying to help.â€

He added that those diagnosed with PTSD suffer depression and anger issues and that cannabis helps alleviate those symptoms.

“The utilization of THC and CBD has been very helpful in doing so because it allows them to forget,†Howell said. “It allows them to sleep. And it allows them, for that reason, to heal.â€

Tricounty area representatives supporting the bill include Representative Lin Bennett, R-Charleston, who spoke at Thursday’s seminar, and Senator Paul Campbell, R-Berkeley who is a sponsor of the senate’s version of the bill.

Opponents of the bill fear the passage of the bill will open the door for recreation use. Bennett bunked that claim.

“You’re not going to see people out on the streets smoking,†she said.

Opponents also say marijuana is a gateway drug that invites the use of other hardcore drugs like cocaine, or heroin.

Senator Campbell said while he does not want marijuana to be abused, if its in the name of helping children, he’s all for it.

“I’ve never in my life used any drugs...but if it offers some relief….I would support that,†Campbell said in a previous interview with The Independent.

He added that he knows families who’ve taken ill children to Colorado, where marijuana was legalized in 2014. He said lawmakers ought to “give [parents] a chance to see their young person grow up and have a future."

Currently, 29 states permit doctor-advised medical use of cannabis. A 2016 Winthrop University Poll noted that 78 percent of South Carolina residents support medical cannabis. Lawmakers urge residents to encourage their legislatures to support the bill before the General Assembly convenes in January.

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