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South Carolina Attempts Medical Marijuana Reform

Hands hold out a prescription bottle full of liquid medication in South Carolina where medical marjiuana reform is on the way.


South Carolina Attempts Medical Marijuana Reform

South Carolina’s June 10 Primary Election included several non-binding referendum questions for voters in the Palmetto State.

Democratic questions included the use of medical marijuana for chronic illness, which gathered favorable reply from 81 percent of the vote, according to local news.  Republican referendum questions did not inquire about medical marijuana. There were over 400,000 voters participating the closed primary, responding to five referendum questions — just over 25 percent responded to Democratic queries.

South Carolina House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford announced in April that he wanted voters to have a say on whether or not the state should allow medical marijuana to be bought and sold.

“While this may be the first year we are talking about medical marijuana in South Carolina, we are lagging behind the rest of the nation,” Rutherford said during a news conference in April at the State House lobby.

Rutherford has not yet responded to requests to clarify these words, as it is not the first year medical marijuana is being discussed in South Carolina.

Rutherford is sponsoring a medical marijuana bill (H 4879), summarily named the Medical Marijuana Act. The bill covers a very broad range of medical conditions and would allow patients to have six plants or 2 ounces.

The bill also aims to fix an amendment legalizing medical marijuana in South Carolina that passed into law in 1980. Medical marijuana has been legal in the state for over 30 years. The issue at hand however, is that cannabis may only be obtained through the federal government.

Title 44, chapter 53, section 650, part (a) of the South Carolina Code of Laws reads that “the director shall obtain marijuana through whatever means he deems most appropriate consistent with federal law.”

“The director” the legislation refers to is the director of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). The DHEC has never attempted to obtain or distribute marijuana.

The obvious issue in the legislation is that marijuana is illegal at the federal level and, in accordance to federal law and federal compliance, it is therefore illegal in South Carolina. Upholding federal law over state law is a popular trend throughout the country as the nation treads new waters of legalization in all forms.

Rutherford has an extended history of fighting to legalize medical marijuana in South Carolina.

Right now, you can get oxycodone,” he said in 2013 during a failed fight to add marijuana to the list of options available for doctors to prescribe. “Oxycodone is one of the most powerful drugs made. You can get that with a doctor’s prescription, but you can’t get marijuana? So it doesn’t make any sense.”

Non-binding referendum questions are a way for politicians to poll voter opinions and stir interest in local issues. They do not always translate into legislation. For example, in 1994 Republican primary voters were asked if the Confederate flag should be removed from the State House dome — 75 percent of GOP voters said they wanted to keep the flag, but it was removed anyway (South Carolina was the last state to remove the flag from atop its capitol).

The South Carolina House of Representatives also passed a bill earlier this month allowing CBD oils to be used as treatment for patients with severe epilepsy. A study group has been formed to make recommendations as to how the CBD-rich cannabis oil can be legally grown and distributed.

What do you think? Should South Carolina go farther to be sure patients can obtain cannabis? Tell us in the comments below.

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