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Medical marijuana bill moves to the House with revisions

Many changes were made to the legislation before it passed 28-15 in the South Carolina Senate.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina's medical marijuana bill has passed the Senate and now must make it through the House before it has a chance of becoming law. Before senators okayed the bill, they made major revisions to it.

If it becomes law, medical marijuana could be prescribed to South Carolinians with certain debilitating medical conditions. Some of the conditions are: Cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, sickle cell anemia, and post-traumatic stress disorder. In order to get cannabis for PTSD, patients would need to prove that they've experienced one or more traumatic events.

Gary Hess, the executive director of the Veterans Alliance for Holistic Alternatives, advocates for medical marijuana to help veterans heal from trauma. “Integrating cannabis reverses the stress response. It takes away that fight or flight mode and allows us to sit in those emotions,” Hess explained.

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Hess is a Marine who struggled with PTSD after returning to the states in 2008. He said many veterans like him don’t get the care they need to cope. “They’re out of options. Just like I was out of options and sitting on my own couch, thinking that logically the best answer was for me to not be in the equation anymore,” shared Hess. 

Cannabis provides a natural option, according to Hess, to help people heal and he hopes South Carolina veterans can soon access it. “We need the medical freedom to make the choices we need to provide the necessary care for ourselves, or family members, so we can get back to the dinner table with those we love most," Hess said.

If the bill becomes law, cannabis could come in the form of oils, lotions and patches. Smoking marijuana leaf would not allowed, but edibles would be, as long as they don't resemble candy or baked goods that could attract children.

The bill also says card holders would need to sign a statement that acknowledges giving their cannabis to anyone is a felony that can result in jail time. Card holders also can't own a firearm, work in law enforcement, or operate heavy machinery.

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Despite these limits, the South Carolina Sheriff’s Association opposes legalizing medical marijuana. Executive director Jarrod Bruder told News19, “a lot of people have said it’s the 'compassionate care act' and it's compassionate to give this to hurting people. We care about those hurting people as well, but we also care about the unintended consequences and it getting into the hands of people that don’t need it.”

Bruder explained that they disagree with calling cannabis medicine and treating it as so if it's not regulated by the FDA. He added that he's pleased with the amendment that gives municipalities an option to opt out of allowing medical marijuana, but he still doesn’t want to see it passed.

The legislation's future in the House is uncertain. 

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