SC LEGISLATIVE SESSION: Medical marijuana bill moves to House for discussion after passing Senate

COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) — Could South Carolina be the 38th state to legalize medical marijuana?

The Compassionate Care Act has passed the Senate and has moved to the House for discussion.

“We hope it’ll bring relief to the suffering that many South Carolinians currently endure,” said Sen. Brad Hutto, minority leader.

Hutto believes that medical marijuana can be safely prescribed by doctors for people that need its effects. However, the Compassionate Care Act bill did raise some concerns from some Senators.

“Some argued that it was a gateway drug or it could lead to children getting ahold of prescriptions,” the senator said. “I mean there’s some real concerns and I don’t minimize the concerns that many of my colleagues have.”

Even in its final form, the bill still faced opposition from members of the Senate and it’s already facing opposition from members of the House.

“I’m not too thrilled about it to be honest,” said Republican Rep. Mike Burns from Greenville.

While the bill only allows medical marijuana for a specific number of illnesses, Burns thinks it creates a slippery slope.

“It is tightly written and I’m thankful they did what they did to it,” Burns said. “The advocates that have been in here’s long game is for recreational use.”

He does not believe that South Carolina should legalize marijuana for recreational use and points to other states as reasons for that view.

“The increase in insurance rates in Colorado since they’ve done this. I don’t think it’s a good policy to let South Carolina go down this same road,” Burns said.

Some of his colleagues in the House disagree.

“I believe that marijuana is always going to be safer in consumption that opioids are. We know that marijuana has an effect and medical impact because we’ve seen it in 37 other states.  We’ve seen it be done safely and we can do it safely here as well,” said Rep. Todd Rutherford, a Democrat from Columbia.

Rutherford is optimistic that the tightly written bill will pass to the governor’s desk.

“This bill does not allow smoking. It’s very restrictive, probably the most restrictive in the country,” Rutherford said. “What we’re going to do from that is learn how to deal with pain and cope with issues that a lot of children are suffering from. If the House gets a chance to vote on this, I believe it’s going to pass.”

“Law enforcement certainly is not ready for it,” Burns said. “It’s probably going to be a close vote when it makes it to the floor.”

Even if the bill passes the House as well, Governor Henry McMaster has yet to say whether he will sign it into law.

Sen. Hutto said he believes recreational marijuana use should be allowed in South Carolina but believes that is a separate issue that could take many more years to be voted on.

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