COLUMBIA, S.C. — A push to legalize medical marijuana in South Carolina has failed again, despite making it further this year than ever before.
The South Carolina House of Representatives did not take up the measure, known as the Compassionate Care Act, for debate Wednesday afternoon. . With time dwindling in the session, that effectively eliminates any chance of it passing this year.
That decision came after Rep. John McCravy, who's opposed to the bill, motioned that the bill should have originated in the House, instead of the Senate, since it imposed a tax. House Speaker Pro Tem Tommy Pope agreed, ruling the legislation unconstitutional.
State Representative Todd Rutherford, a supporter of the bill, appealed the ruling, but it failed on a 59-55 vote. "It's an abomination of House rules and certainly an abomination of the General Assembly and the balance of power that we have," Rutherford said afterward.
McCravy also came prepared for debate, armed with more than 1,000 amendments designed to block its passing. “I think there are many defects in the bill," he said. "That's just the first defect. I've got three pages of bullet points with problems in the bill."
There has been a seven year long effort to legalize some form of marijuana for medicinal purposes. This year, a version passed the South Carolina Senate in February.
The bill's chances dimmed, however, when it went to the House, as lawmakers opposed to the bill found ways to block the measure from quickly moving to a floor debate.
The defeat means the bill would have to restart the entire process if it were to be introduced for next year's session, needing approval in both the Senate and House.
Rutherford, though, remains hopeful on its future. "It has progressed because people are demanding change. Seventy percent of people in South Carolina that are polled say they want the freedom to choose medical marijuana or not."
Unlike other states, South Carolina's law would have been one of the most restrictive in the country. Only South Carolinians with specific medical conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, sickle cell anemia, autism and some post-traumatic stress disorder would be able to obtain marijuana. Smoking the drug would be illegal; instead patients would have been allowed to use oil, salves, patches or vaporizers.
Doctors also would have to meet patients in person and patients could only get a two-week supply at one time.
Medical marijuana advocates have tried for years to get a bill passed, arguing it can ease certain ailments. Opponents, however, have included law enforcement and religious groups who both argue that they feel legalizing the drug in any form would eventually led to the approval of recreational marijuana.
A total of 37 other states have legalized some forms of medical marijuana.