COLUMBIA, SC – By Robert Kittle
Republican lawmakers in the South Carolina House and Senate plan to file bills in the next few weeks that would expand the use of medical marijuana in the state. Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, and Rep. Jenny Horne, R-Dorchester, have been working on the bills as a follow-up to a law they got passed last year. That law allows people suffering from severe epilepsy to use CBD oil, which is made from the cannabis plant, to control their seizures. The CBD oil contains only trace amounts of THC, the chemical in marijuana that produces its mind-altering effects.
The problem is that, while it’s now legal for patients with a doctor’s orders to use the CBD oil, it’s not made in South Carolina and federal law makes it illegal to ship it or take it across state lines.
“The problem now is how do we test it, how do we produce it in South Carolina so that it’s accessible and pure for the citizens of South Carolina?” Rep. Horne says. “So that’s what the job this committee has is to figure out, okay, how can we produce it, test it, manufacture it, and dispense it in a responsible and in a regulated manner?”
She says it needs to be done scientifically and in a controlled environment, just like any other medicine, “Because you wouldn’t buy your medicine off the street,” she says.
She plans to introduce a bill in the House while Sen. Davis will introduce the same bill in the Senate. The bill will outline how the cannabis plants will be grown and regulated, as well as how the CBD oil will be made and tested for purity and how it will be dispensed.
They also plan another bill that would expand the use of medical marijuana for patients other than just those with severe epilepsy. “What other strains of cannabis can be authorized by doctors for use by patients?” Sen. Davis says. “What levels of THC will be permitted? For what medical conditions can it be authorized?”
But the Medical Marijuana Study Committee that he and Rep. Horne are on that’s been studying the issue have heard opposition, from both the State Law Enforcement Division and the South Carolina Medical Association.
SLED says in states that allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes, the illegal use of marijuana also increases because it’s easier to disguise it as the legal form. The SC Medical Association says recreational pot smokers will be asking doctors for prescriptions they don’t really need.
Sen. Davis says, “That’s going to be a broader discussion because, as you start to talk about strains of cannabis with higher levels of THC, some of the concerns expressed by SLED and by the Medical Association come more into play, because it’s the THC component that leads to recreational use, that leads to negative impact on teenagers’ brains. So I think it’s necessary to have that discussion and I want to have that discussion because the testimony we have received over the summer and the fall is that a lot of individuals will benefit from cannabis but it depends on that THC component.”
He says medical marijuana can be used to treat things like post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, and for chemotherapy patients who’ve lost their appetites.
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