During the first week back in session for South Carolina lawmakers, a bipartisan bill was introduced called the “South Carolina Compassionate Care Act,” which would legalize the use of medical marijuana products in the state. Sponsors and co-sponsors of the bill hope that allowing the use of medical marijuana in South Carolina will lower the rates of addiction to prescription pain killers.
Legalizing marijuana, both medically and recreationally, has recently been thrust into the spotlight. Currently 28 states and Washington, D.C., allow for the use of medical marijuana. Eight of those states allow recreational use of marijuana. In the recent presidential race, one candidate who spoke out in strong support of legalization was Libertarian Gary Johnson. Johnson’s stance became well known around the country after his “fake heart attack” publicity stunt during his debate with Green Party candidate Jill Stein.
Medical marijuana has many medical benefits including pain relief, anxiety suppression and seizure reduction. The opiate addiction epidemic has hit the U.S. hard in recent times. Doctors and public servants are looking to more organic ways to help people manage chronic pain. Medical professionals are starting to look to medical marijuana substances as alternatives to highly addictive opiate pain killers.
In modern society, the stigma surrounding medical cannabis has almost disappeared, but the idea of legalizing marijuana in any form in South Carolina has been unfathomable in the past. This bill being introduced left many people with their jaws on the floor.
This state has been historically socially conservative. South Carolina has voted red in every presidential race since 1976.
With that being said, the big question now is whether the bill be passed into law. As with any legislation introduced in our state house, the bill has to go through a lengthy process before it goes into action. It will need to survive debate in committees and on the Senate and House floors and then receive the governor’s signature.
The South Carolina State House has not been known in the past for passing socially liberal legislation, but lately the state has begun to move in more a progressive direction compared to our neighbor states. Fifty years ago, no one would have thought the governor of South Carolina would be an Indian woman or that gay marriage would be legal or that state legislators would even think of legalizing any form of marijuana.
Many people are saying there is no way this legislation could pass because of some of the extremely conservative members of the state legislature that hold high seniority, such as Florence’s Hugh Leatherman, who is currently the most senior member of the South Carolina Senate.
If sponsors of the bill can convince more conservative members that medical marijuana is the best alternative to addictive opiates, it could help win over those who would traditionally be opposed to this type of legislation. The future for medical marijuana in South Carolina is certainly beginning to look bright; this could be a pivotal legislative moment for South Carolina in a move toward a more progressive agenda.