COLUMBIA, S.C. — For the first time ever, debate on legalizing medical marijuana will hit the South Carolina Senate floor on Wednesday.
Senator Tom Davis (R, Beaufort & Jasper Counties) has been working on the bill known as S.150 for seven years. Last week, senators put Davis' bill on special order, meaning it will take precedent before all other bills.
On Tuesday, opponents and supporters of the proposed legislation were at the State House.
Executive Director of the Veterans Alliance for Holistic Alternatives, or VAHA, Gary Hess said his organization is focusing on educating lawmakers on this topic.
“The medical efficacy cannot be denied, and what we’re asking for right now is leadership from our state leaders, both on the senate and the representative side, to please stand not only with the veteran community, but with those who are in need of a better option than what is being provided right now," Hess said.
The 59-page bill is one of the most restrictive in the country.
Medical cannabis in the form of lotions and creams would only be allowed with less than 4 thousand milligrams of THC. THC is the substance in marijuana that makes people feel ‘high.’
Oils, extracts, capsules, or other edible forms would be limited to less than 1,600 grams of THC. Oils for vaporization would be limited to 8,200 milligrams of THC.
The bill also limits who can be prescribed medical cannabis.
Users would have to have been diagnosed with cancer, epilepsy, seizures, terminal illnesses or post-traumatic stress disorder. All medical marijuana products would have to be prescribed by a licensed doctor.
President of Palmetto Family Dave Wilson said there are too many questions left unanswered within the bill.
"How are we going to be able to verify you? Are we gonna be able to have folks from other states with their cards and coming into the state? Do we have reciprocity that exists?" Wilson asked.
Wilson and other opponents also worry about a pathway for recreational marijuana.
“We’re setting up with this bill an industrial marijuana complex that is creating the infrastructure that, at the flip of a switch, can turn us into a recreational marijuana state, and we don’t want that," Wilson said.
The proposed legislation has 14 cosponsors. It needs nine more to senators to pass. After that, it would go to the house, where leaders haven't said if they will address it before the end of the 2022 session.
“The truth is, if it doesn’t pass at 22 veterans a day, were going to lose almost 9 thousand veterans," Hess said. Hess was referring to a statistic from the Veterans Administration that indicates 22 veterans are lost to suicide each day.
If the bill passes, the State Health Department would have two years to draft regulations and implement the legislation
Governor Henry McMaster hasn't said whether he'd veto the bill if it made it to his desk.