Pubdate: Tue, 10 Jan 2017
Source: State, The (SC)
Copyright: 2017 The State


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

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."


To qualify: Patients must have a qualifying medical condition, ranging
from cancer-induced nausea to post-traumatic stress disorder to
Parkinson's, their doctor's recommendation and a registration card issued
by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

For caregivers: Parents or guardians could apply to DHEC to become a
designated caregiver, who would have their own registration card that
allows them to assist a qualified patient in the medical use of their

Limits: A patient could not possess more than two ounces of dried cannabis
per patient in a 14-day period. Cardholders who violate the law could have
their cards revoked and could face criminal penalties.
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