A key Senate subcommittee has passed the Compassionate Care Act, which legalizes marijuana for medical purposes.
The subcommittee, chaired by the bill’s author, State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, voted 5-1 for the bill. The one dissenting vote was state Sen. Tom Corbin, R-Greenville.
The subcommittee added amendments to the bill that Davis and other supporters hope will soften opposition from groups like the State Law Enforcement Division, the S.C. Sheriff’s Association, the S.C. Medical Association and Attorney General Alan Wilson.
The amendments include banning certain transportation workers from participating, working toward a better detection method for driver’s under the influence and tightening the definition of a debilitating condition.
“I want to thank the law enforcement officials, business leaders and physicians who worked with members of this subcommittee to ensure that this medical cannabis bill reflects the will of the overwhelming majority of South Carolinians … but to also draw a bright line against the recreational use of cannabis,” Davis said.
But March E. Seabrook, president of the S.C. Medical Association, said his group still opposes the bill. “The bill, even as amended, continues to circumvent the safe practices established for bringing new drugs to market, which potentially puts patient health at risk,” Seabrook said.
“There is a method to conduct the testing necessary for physicians to understand indication, usage, and dose for marijuana and its compounds: reschedule marijuana, allowing for significant, controlled, and replicable clinical testing. Without this process, the state legislature effectively establishes itself as the FDA for South Carolina.”
Polling has consistently shown more than 70 percent of South Carolinians support legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, but a majority also oppose recreational use.
Last year the bill made it to the floor of both the S.C. House and Senate, but the session ended before the bill could be debated by either chamber as a whole.
This year, Davis has resubmitted the bill with renewed vigor. He has met with its chief opponents vetting amendments as chair of the subcommittee.
He hopes the changes he is working through will make the bill more palatable to opponents as well as his more doubting colleagues and Gov. Henry McMaster.
He is promising “the most socially conservative, strictly regulated medical cannabis bill in the country,” one that allows marijuana to be consumed to treat “a very tightly defined universe of debilitating conditions.”