SC Senate approves medical marijuana bill, House then passes

COLUMBIA, SC (AP) — South Carolina senators on Wednesday approved the use of medical marijuana in the state in a 28-15 vote that ended the seven-year quest for a Republican senator to pass the proposal, but the legislation still has hurdles to overcome. become law.

The proposal had both bipartisan support and opposition in the Republican-dominated Senate. Seventeen Republicans voted for the bill and 10 opposed it. He faces another routine vote before heading to the State House where he was never picked up.

The bill has been a crusade for Sen. Tom Davis for seven years, and several senators said his tireless attempts to change his mind turned them into supporters. In 2016, the Beaufort Republican spoke in the Senate every day during the short time that senators gave personal speeches, opportunities Davis would use to shine a light on someone suffering without medical marijuana.

Davis said his proposal would be one of the most conservative among the 37 states that have approved medical marijuana, including Mississippi, which signed a bill last week.

The proposal specifies diseases that could be treated, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, sickle cell disease and autism. And marijuana could only be obtained from specially selected pharmacies.

Smoking the drug would remain illegal in South Carolina. Instead, patients should use oils, ointments, patches, or sprays. Doctors would have to meet patients in person, and patients could only get a two-week supply at a time.

Senators considered more than 65 amendments to the bill in seven days of debate. Davis praised the work, saying he wanted to improve his bill.

Amendments passed included giving preference to South Carolina farmers to grow marijuana under the program to charge a 6% sales tax to allow cities or counties to ban legal medical marijuana in their jurisdiction.

The bill is the only major item debated by the Senate since January 26.

Many law enforcement agencies and religious groups oppose the bill. Critics feared it would create what some called a “marijuana industrial complex” and allow the state to quickly move to licensing the recreational use of marijuana.

Opponents also said it would be easier for teens to be prescribed marijuana to family members or friends.

“Either they’re going to give it to them, or they’re going to sell it to them, or they’re going to take it from them,” said Sen. Kevin Johnson, a Democrat from Manning.

Davis said many people are already using marijuana illegally and will continue to do so if his bill is defeated.

Senator Sean Bennett said he had decided during the last hour of debate to support the bill, but he feared any changes would create a “Frankenstein’s monster”.

“I think the public is going to be a little surprised what’s in there and what’s not,” said Bennett, a Republican from Summerville.

The bill is expected to be tabled next to the House, which must approve it before the end of the General Assembly session in May – or it will die.

Gov. Henry McMaster said his stance on medical marijuana is evolving, but he declined to say Tuesday what he might do if the bill makes it to his desk.

“Premature to say,” the governor told reporters. “I should see what’s in the bill.”

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Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSColinsAP.



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