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Cannabis Legalization in South Carolina: Where It Stands Now and Where It’s Headed

Flickr @ Véronique Debord-Lazaro

There are currently 33 states that have legal programs for medical cannabis, but fewer than half of those are traditionally red, southern states. Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Florida are southern states that have some kind of medical cannabis program, but South Carolina does not. Groups like SC Compassionate Care Alliance would like to change that and provide patient access to the plant medicine. 

The South Carolina Compassionate Care Act was scheduled to be voted on by state lawmakers in April of 2019, but the vote was tabled because some amendments to the bill are still being decided on. Since then, the issue of medical cannabis in South Carolina has been stalled, and the vote was pushed to 2020.

In January 2020, a subcommittee meeting was scheduled to discuss a medical cannabis program allowing doctors to prescribe the drug. Supporters and activists of medical cannabis turned up to the State House to call on legislators to pass the bill. However, it appears that the testimonies of those supporters will have to wait until April 2020, and could likely spill over into 2021.

One Republican in favor of the medical cannabis program in SC is Senator Tom Davis. He said that the amendments are because of Senators having concerns about the proposed bill. “We’re in the first year of a two-year process. We have a comprehensive amendment that addresses a lot of concerns that people have expressed,” said Davis.

It is still being debated as to whether flower should be legal for medical purposes, which is one of the amendments to the program – as well as the legality of derivatives, edibles, how much can be legally possessed by medical patients, and so on. 

But it would appear that any opposition that lawmakers have to a medical cannabis program goes against the will of the voting public in the state. In a June 2018 poll, 85 percent of voters in at least three counties said they approved of legalizing medical cannabis in South Carolina, according to a report from The State

In 2014, the South Carolina General Assembly passed Senate Bill 1035, which legalized the consumption, sale, and purchasing of CBD hemp oil, according to SC Compassion. However, it is unlawful if the oil contains more than 0.3% THC.

Some activists in the state think that “money is the driving force” behind South Carolina law enforcement’s opposition to a comprehensive medical marijuana program. Civil asset forfeiture has led to SC law enforcement seizing about 17 million every three years, according to Taken, which is a journalistic effort to shine a light on what they perceive as one of the main reasons that cannabis is still illegal there. In fact, at a hearing of the Medical Affairs Committee in the South Carolina Legislature, Chief Mark Keel of the SC Law Enforcement Division (SLED) said: “It’s all about the money.”

If you are a resident of South Carolina in favor of a medical cannabis program, the Marijuana Policy Project urges you to tell your state legislators how you feel.