The South Carolina legislature is currently considering various forms of legislation that would see the states marijuana laws changed. We spoke to a medical expert and local sheriff for perspective.
Columbia, SC (WLTX) - In an effort to keep you up-to-date on the latest propositions to changes in the states marijuana laws, News19 spoke to experts on different areas surrounding the issue.
Dr. Prakash Nagarkatti is the Vice President for Research at the University of South Carolina.
According to Dr. Nagarkatti, the marijuana plant contains at least more than 60 of what are known as cannabinoids, which, in various ways, act on the brain to the benefit of those seeking relief from different illnesses and conditions.
"Experimentally, (cannabinoids) have been shown to suppress information, therefore, they can be used to treat disorders such as arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and a wide range of inflammatory diseases in which your immune system goes haywire and starts destroying your own cells or tissues," Nagarkatti said.
However, we also spoke to Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews, who said he spent more than two-decades working with the Drug Enforcement Administration, a federal agency which enforces drug smuggling and activity both in the United States and abroad.
Every year, different law enforcement agencies spend valuable time and resources cracking down on marijuana users. Some opponents of passing laws that would allow marijuana to be used for medicinal purposes in the state, like Matthews, believe it only opens the door for more widespread usage.
"That's a foot in the door to legitimize marijuana," said Matthews. "If that's all they wanted, I don't think it's a big problem, but that's a foot in the door to legitimize it. If you make a substance legal, you increase its availability because it's a legal substance, and if you increase its availability, you increase its use and abuse."
Matthews said keeping things like alcohol away from children is a problem, so "what makes anybody think we'll do the same thing with marijuana," he said.
Dr. Nagarkatti, who said his research has been featured on PBS, said researchers first categorized and isolated "THC," a cannabinoid, in the 1960s. Since then, he said, research into the chemical has progressed.
"Cannabinoids have also been used to treat certain eye disorders, such as glaucoma," Nagarkatti said. "They have also been used to increase the appetite in patients who are taking chemo-therapy."
"Medicinal marijuana has a significant impact in trying to treat seizures which are not treatable by any other types of drugs," he said.
Dr. Nagarkatti said the benefits that cannabinoid chemicals bring to someone using them do not change whether it is smoked or taken orally.
Sheriff Matthews said he believes any consequences that changing marijuana laws could carry outweigh anything that could be brought in by revenue by taxing its sales, as some advocates propose.