South Carolina Bill Would Legalize Medical Marijuana; Foundation to Block Federal Prohibition

COLUMBIA, Sc. (Feb. 1, 2016) – A South Carolina Senate bill would legalize medical marijuana for qualifying patients in the state, a first step to block the deplorable federal prohibition on the same. 

Introduced by Sen. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) and five bipartisan co-sponsors, Senate Bill 212 (S.212) states that “a qualifying patient is not subject to arrest by state or local law enforcement, prosecution or penalty under state or local law, or the denial of a right or privilege for the medical use of cannabis” under the rules and regulations laid out in the legislation.

Patients would be able to qualify for medical marijuana if they suffered from one of the following ailments listed in S.212:

"(a) cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, agitation of Alzheimer’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), autism, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, Parkinson’s disease, neural-tube defects, or the treatment of these conditions;

(b) a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces one or more of the following: cachexia or wasting syndrome; severe, debilitating pain; severe nausea; seizures; neurological disorders; or severe and persistent muscle spasms including, but not limited to, those characteristic of multiple sclerosis; or

(c) any other serious medical condition or its treatment added by the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board"

Medical marijuana patients would be allowed to designate a caregiver under S.212, which would permit another individual the legal authority to grow the plant on behalf of the qualifying patient. Dispensaries, called “medical cannabis establishments” in S.212, would be permitted to operate as well provided that they comply with the tax and regulatory structure established under the legislation.

“This legislation will establish a comprehensive and tightly regulated medical cannabis program,” Sen. Tom Davis said in a SC Compassion press release. ”It will ensure seriously ill patients are able to access this medicine safely and legally if their doctors believe it will help them. South Carolinians suffering from debilitating conditions deserve the same chance at relief as the roughly 200 million Americans living in states that have adopted similar laws.”

S.212 compliments two companion bills in the House. Rep. Todd Rutherford (D-Columbia) introduced H.3128 to allow qualifying medical patients to possess up to two ounces and up to six plants of useable marijuana as well as H.3162 to provide medical marijuana for certain military veterans. This signals a powerful bicameral left-right alliance emerging on the issue of medical marijuana in the Palmetto State.

“The time has come to put aside archaic misconceptions of medical marijuana and put patients first,” said Rep. Rutherford said in a WLTX report. “I hear devastating stories every single day from people who are battling epilepsy or suffering from a brain tumor who desperately need medical marijuana to treat the debilitating symptoms.”

Despite the federal prohibition on marijuana, measures such as S.212 and its House counterparts remain perfectly lawful, and the feds can do little if anything to stop them in practice.

LEGALITY

The federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970 prohibits all of this behavior. Of course, the federal government lacks any legal authority to ban or regulate marijuana within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.

Legalization of medical marijuana in South Carolina would remove a huge layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition will remain on the books.

FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By curtailing state prohibition, South Carolina sweeps away much of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.

Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly annual budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution either. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.

A GROWING MOVEMENT

South Carolina could join a growing number that are simply ignoring federal prohibition, and nullifying it in practice. Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska have already legalized recreational cannabis with California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts set to join them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization were passed in those states earlier this month.

With more than two-dozen states allowing cannabis for medical use as well, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition any more.

“The lesson here is pretty straight forward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,” policy analyst Michael Boldin said.

WHAT’S NEXT?

S.212 was referred to the Medical Affairs Committee. The committee must approve the bill before it can receive a full Senate vote.