Lawmakers in South Carolina have pre-filed several cannabis reform measures ahead of the 2021 session: two to legalize medical cannabis, one to decriminalize possession up to one ounce, one allowing some veterans to possess cannabis, and another to hold an “advisory referendum” on broad legalization.
The bills come from both Democrats and Republicans.
Republican Sen. Tom Davis, who pre-filed the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act (S.150), told WSPA that he has a majority of lawmakers from both legislative chambers who would vote for the bill. The measure, which he described as the most conservative medical cannabis bill in the nation, covers only “medical conditions for which there is empirical evidence that medical cannabis can be a medicinal benefit,” he said.
The bill names 10 specific conditions that are common among those qualifying for medical cannabis access throughout the U.S., while also allowing access to those with a terminal illness with less than one-year life expectancy, as well as chronic conditions “causing severe and persistent muscle spasms,” and conditions for which opioids are, or could be, prescribed for care.
Smoking is not permitted under the proposal.
Another measure introduced by Republican Rep. Bill Herbkersman (H.3361) would allow physicians to make program recommendations for any condition and permit more methods of ingestion.
“It is unacceptable that South Carolinians with serious illnesses have to break the law to alleviate their suffering. My brother deserved better. Our friends, family, and neighbors deserve the same options to medicine that are afforded to Americans in 36 other states. Waiting any longer will only add to the suffering that is experienced by those who are plagued with debilitating illnesses.” – Herbkersman in a statement via South Carolina Compassionate Care
The measure allowing honorably discharged military veterans to possess cannabis (H.3202) was pre-filed by Rep. J. Todd Rutherfordm a Democrat and House Minority Leader. The bill would allow qualifying vets to possess up to 1 ounce of flower or 10 grams of concentrates. According to the bill text, allowing veterans to possess and self-medicate with cannabis might help mitigate post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms and reduce veteran suicides.
“When South Carolina’s combat veterans are suffering to the point where they are committing suicide at nearly a 50 percent higher rate than the general population, the State, at a minimum, should not criminalize the one treatment that might alleviate the ravaging effects of PTSD,” the bill states. “South Carolina must reform its criminal penalties for marijuana possession to free up the necessary time and money to go after violent criminals who cause true havoc and loss of life in our communities.”
The referendum bill (S.268) pre-filed in the Senate by Democrat Sen. Margie Bright Matthews would not allow voters to legalize cannabis – the state does not allow voter referendum – but rather ask voters during the 2022 election whether they approve of legalization for adults. The question would appear on ballots as “Should the State of South Carolina legalize the recreational use of marijuana notwithstanding any federal law to the contrary?” The measure would require the State Election Commission to submit a report to the General Assembly within 60 days of the election’s certification.
Cannabis reform efforts in South Carolina are opposed by the State Attorney General’s Office, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, and Republican Gov. Henry McMaster.