Exclusive Series: Senator ‘Optimistic’ About Possibility of Legal Medical Marijuana

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) – The lead sponsor of this session’s medical marijuana bill says it’s not a matter of if, but when the plant will be legalized for medicinal use in South Carolina.

Senator Tom Davis, a Republican from Beaufort, sits on the Senate Medical Affairs Committee, which is tasked with getting the S.212, or the S.C. Compassionate Care Act, for consideration in the General Assembly.

Thursday, the committee, comprised of five senators, met in front of a room, packed with supporters and opponents, to lay out the framework for hearing testimony. The senators set a two week timeline for finalizing technical issues within the bill itself, and organizing a list of presenters.

Davis has been fighting this battle for a number of years- he was instrumental in getting CBD Oil legalized in the state. He says after a medical marijuana bill failed to make it out of committee last year, this session, he plans on presenting more expert testimony, from both the law enforcement and medical realms.

“It’s an issue where the politicians are a little bit behind the people, but we’re catching up.”

Last session, Davis started introducing lawmakers to constituents- veterans with PTSD, patients with glaucoma, parents of kids with epilepsy- who’s qualities of life, and actual livesa are on the line.

“What’s effective is not necessarily the charts or scientific data, but when lawmakers can meet families and they can find out what those families are going through right now in terms of suffering and struggling and how they can get relief through cannabis,” he said.

A recent poll suggests South Carolina residents don’t need the same kind of convincing. The Withrop University poll, commissioned by the State Newspaper, found 78 percent, or four out of five people, supports legalized medical marijuana in S.C. However, 77 percent said the FDA should regulate medical marijuana if it is legalized, which for now, is not going to happen. Marijuana is a schedule one drug at the federal level.

“We’re not reinventing the wheel here,” Davis said. “There’s 28 other states that have done this and have told us what works, and we have an idea of what doesn’t work.”

The South Carolina Compassionate Care Act is a compilation of what Davis calls “best practices”. The program would be user-driven and regulated by DHEC, from growth to sale. The agency would be in charge of collecting fees from the growers, processors, dispensers and buyers. Davis said the proposed program is not meant to raise money for the state; only fund the cost of running it.

DHEC turned-down an on-camera interview, instead, sending us a statement, saying it does not take a stance on the issue, but if medical marijuana is legalized, DHEC will carry out its obligation.

Another state agency, however, has made its stance on medical marijuana very clear. SLED Chief Mark Keel told ABC Columbia he speaks for all law enforcement leaders in the state when he says he’s not buying the validity of a proposed “seed to sale” tracking system, to prevent the drug from getting into hands that don’t belong to patients.

Davis says, he respects law enforcement, has considered their criticisms and drafted a bill that everyone can get behind.

“I mean it really, very carefully, and in a controlled way, allows medicine to be available, but draws a bright line and says, we are in no way approving any recreational use,” he said. Davis said the best case scenario is getting the bill passed by May, after which DHEC would have anywhere from 90 days to one year to implement a program.

Our exclusive series concludes next Thursday evening, with a behind-the-scenes look in a lab at the University of South Carolina, where researchers have shown a link between cannabinoids and THC.

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