Columbia, SC (WLTX) State senators voted 7-4 Thursday against a bill that would have allowed medical marijuana in South Carolina.
The bill would have allowed patients suffering from debilitating medical conditions, like cancer, glaucoma, and chronic pain, to get a doctor’s prescription for the drug.
Sen. Tom Davis, the main sponsor of the bill who’s been working on it for two years, says 35 other states have some form of medical marijuana. "This is something that is providing real relief to people who are suffering,” he told the Senate Medical Affairs Committee, of which he is a member.
But other members of the committee weren’t swayed. Sen. Kevin Johnson, D-Manning, said, "Back in my district, every single medical professional that contacted me about this bill is against it. And they explained to me why and they made some very valid points. And then all my law enforcement people in my district are against this bill."
Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville, said, "This is a bad idea. It's a pathway to recreational usage." He pointed to Colorado, where recreational use is legal only for adults, but marijuana use by children ages 12 to 17 is double the national average for that age group.
And Sen. Creighton Coleman, D-Winnsboro, said, "It appears to me at this time that the negatives outweigh the positives."
While law enforcement is against the bill because of the possibility that legal medical marijuana could be diverted for recreational use, Sen. Davis says the bill has a seed-to-sale tracking system to prevent that. Law enforcement says that tracks the marijuana only to the point of sale, though, so it could still end up being sold for recreational use.
It was a disappointing day for two mothers who’ve been fighting for years to get medical marijuana for their daughters, both of whom have seizure disorders. April Pace says of her daughter, Dixie, "She needs the whole plant, and we need the availability to try different strains of it, and it's just like regular medicines--different strains help different conditions and people respond different ways."
Jill Swing’s 8-year-old daughter Mary Louise has been taking CBD oil, which comes from the cannabis plant, and is seeing progress. "We have seen some reduction in seizures overall, but she is also maturing and getting older and so we just feel like she's going to need higher levels of THC than we have access to now," she says. “And we also need a controlled, safe, tested product that we can get within our state, and that's been the biggest challenge in what we've had to deal with in the last two years."
Sen. Davis also talked about how much medical marijuana can help military veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. Jonathan Lubecky, a Marine Corps and Army veteran who served in Iraq, says, "Every second of every day my brain tells me to kill myself. I have 5 suicide attempts." He has a long scar on his right wrist from the most recent attempt three years ago. He says he’s used medical marijuana in another state and it does help. He says he tried to talk to committee chairman Sen. Harvey Peeler after the vote but the senator said he didn’t have time. The committee meeting ended as senators were due on the Senate floor.
Lubecky says of Sen. Peeler, "He's okay with 22 veterans a day killing themselves. He's okay with the 176 South Carolinians that will die because of this vote in the next year.”
Jill Swing says, "We're not completely dead-in-the-water yet because there is a companion bill in the House that has also already passed subcommittee, so I think what we do is go over to the House side and try to get them to push the bill from over there." She says supporters will also have to keep trying to convince senators, because if the House does pass the bill it would still have to pass in the Senate.
Voting in favor of the medical marijuana bill were: Sen. Tom Davis, Sen. Brad Hutto, Sen. Shane Martin, and Sen. Tom Alexander.
Voting against it were: Sen. Harvey Peeler, Sen. Kevin Johnson, Sen. Mike Fair, Sen. Floyd Nicholson, Sen. John Scott, Sen. Wes Hayes, and Sen. Creighton Coleman.