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  • D.H. Reilly

It Looks Like Medical Marijuana is Coming to South Carolina

Support For Legalizing Marijuana: Why it looks marijuana is coming

It feels like Palmetto State residents will finally be able to get a South Carolina Marijuana Card in the future.

The South Carolina Compassionate Care Act passed the Senate Medical Affairs Committee by a bipartisan, 9-5 vote in May, but it didn’t end up coming to the floor for a vote by the entire Senate during the 2021 legislative session.

The bill’s sponsor, State Senator Tom Davis, of Beaufort, had expected the bill to pass both houses and become law this year. According to WBTW, the Myrtle Beach and Florence CBS affiliate, Davis has been pushing for medical legalization for seven years. He now says that the bill “will be the first debated when the SC Senate reconvenes next January,” and that he expects it to pass into law.

And despite traditional opposition to legalization in the South, and continuing opposition in our state specifically, it appears the senator is right: Medical Marijuana is coming to South Carolina.

The Status Quo isn’t Encouraging...

For those who have been waiting for the relief that only medical marijuana seems to be able to offer, it may seem like that day will never come. It can be even more discouraging to look at all of the progress made in regards to medical marijuana around the nation.

According to the Columbia Post and Courier, South Carolina is one of only fourteen states without a medical marijuana market, and two of those states have passed laws that will soon establish markets there. South Carolina is “increasingly an outlier on this issue, not just nationally but even in the Southeast region where opposition to medical marijuana was once strong but has dropped dramatically.”

Every Day Without a Medical Marijuana Market Means Needless Suffering

One encouraging trend is recognition from long-time opponents of legalization efforts that their approach meant ongoing suffering for South Carolinians.

Even Governor Henry McMaster, who has long been opposed to legalization, has now said he’s keeping his mind open about a medical marijuana market, saying “I know there’s a lot of suffering that is — apparently is — treatable or helped with what they call medical marijuana.”

WMBF, Myrtle Beach’s NBC affiliate, reported on Surfside Beach pharmacist Daniel Bundrick, who had been opposed to legalizing medical marijuana “until he tried CBD to help with constant, throbbing pain in his leg. Fifteen minutes after taking it, he said the pain he had endured for decades stopped.”

Bundrick became such a fervent convert to the legalization cause, that he shut down his business, Surfside Beach Pharmacy, and opened High Tide Dispensary to sell CBD products, and is now a vocal advocate for the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act.

The fact is that the more familiar people become with medical marijuana and the relief it can offer to desperate, suffering people, the more inclined they are to become supporters.

Every Day without a Medical Marijuana Market Means Money left on the Table for South Carolina

Besides the relief that medical marijuana could bring to an unknowable amount of South Carolinians, the state is also lagging behind in lost revenue by remaining one of the fourteen states not to allow medical marijuana.

University of South Carolina Assistant Professor Danna Thomas told Myrtle Beach/Florence ABC affiliate WPDE that “the state is leaving millions of dollars in tax revenue on the table by not legalizing marijuana.”

Newsweek spoke with Jared Moffat of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), a pro-legalization advocacy group, about legalization and tax revenue. He told the publication, "Legalizing cannabis for adults has proven to be a wise investment. Not only are states seeing the benefits of a regulated market and far fewer cannabis-related arrests—they're benefitting in a direct, economic way, too.

“Before legalization, money from cannabis sales flowed through an underground market that endangered public safety and disrupted communities. But now, we see all across the country that revenue from the legal cannabis industry is supporting schools, health care, and a range of other beneficial public programs."

And former U.S. Representative and current gubernatorial candidate Joe Cunningham told the Associated Press that “Regulating and taxing marijuana would also generate tens of millions of dollars in new tax revenue, allowing our state to finally provide critical funding to fix our schools, fix our roads, expand Medicaid, give our hard working teachers the pay raise that they deserve, or even substantially cut taxes on South Carolina families.”

And considering that our state is ranked 44th in the nation in education and 36th for infrastructure, it isn’t like we couldn’t use the money.

...But Every Day Brings South Carolina Closer to Medical Marijuana

But the tide of opinion has turned so strongly in legalization’s favor that politicians are now jockeying to be seen as more pro-marijuana than their opponents.

We already told you about gubernatorial candidate Joe Cunningham and his vocal support for ending marijuana prohibition. Well his toughest competition for the Democratic nomination, State Senator Mia McLeod, of Richland, calls herself a “fierce advocate” of legalization. She is also a co-sponsor to the Compassionate Care Act.

McLeod has even gone so far as to take swipes at Cunningham for not doing enough to support legalization.

“It’s important to understand the difference between campaign promises and what we choose to fight for while in office,” McLeod told the Johnson City Press. “I’ve actually sponsored legislation to legalize and decriminalize marijuana, unlike my Democratic opponent who had the chance to do so while in Congress but did not.”

Public Support for Medical Marijuana has Changed the Political Landscape

Of course politicians generally respond to public demand, and research shows the people of South Carolina are ready for marijuana. Multiple polls since 2016 have shown support for legalizing medical cannabis here as being between 72 and 78%.

And when you combine that with the 91% of Americans nationwide who support legalization, it’s easy to see why even traditional opponents of ending prohibition have come over to the other side.

Jill Swing, president and founder of the South Carolina Compassionate Care Alliance, told WBTW that Democrats have typically supported legalization and Republicans have usually opposed it. And while she says that divide mostly holds true at the Federal level, opinions are changing in South Carolina.

“The greatest increase in support has been Republicans who support it,” Swing said.

Swing said that while Republican lawmakers have long worried that support for cannabis would hurt their re-election efforts, they’re starting to see that isn't so. “In fact, they have been touted as heroes by stepping out and supporting medical cannabis legislation, where in the beginning, they were considered outliers,” she said.

Swing told WBTW that this change in politicians’ attitudes can be chalked up “to grassroots advocacy, awareness, and to patients reaching out to their political representatives to ask for their support.”

You Don’t Have to Wait to Start Your Medical Marijuana Journey

While South Carolina won’t have a medical marijuana law in place until at least 2022, you can start getting ready for it now.

Reserve an evaluation today with one of our knowledgeable, compassionate doctors, and we’ll set up an appointment for you just as soon as South Carolina’s medical marijuana market is up and running! Not only will you be ready for relief as soon as it’s ready for you, but you’ll save $25 off the cost of your appointment!

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