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South Carolina Compassionate Care Act Approved by Senate Subcommittee

March 22, 2019

A new South Carolina medical marijuana bill was recently approved by a Senate subcommittee, 5-1, after a few last minute revisions were made. The Compassionate Care Act was amended to narrow qualifying medical conditions and ban some types of workers from accessing medical cannabis. Additionally, physicians who could potentially recommend medical marijuana to patients must have specific qualifications.

Compassionate Care Act

The Compassionate Care Act now moves to the Senate Medical Affairs panel for debate and hopefully a vote. This will be the fourth time the bill has been proposed in the South Carolina legislature, but it has never been put to a vote on the floor in either chamber. While advocates are excited to see it won the vote in the subcommittee, there are some who were dismayed by the amendments.

Executive director of patient advocacy group Compassionate SC, Judy Ghanem, remains concerned that medical marijuana patients may only have limited access to the cannabis they so desperately need. She noted that, “The main concern that we have is, will enough doctors actually be recommending [medical cannabis] and will enough patients be able to get the medicine.”

Ghanem went on to say that, “There might not be as many specialists that are willing to recommend as there would be regular physicians. Concessions have to be made, and we understand that, but from a logistics standpoint, we need to have a law that’s workable.” This coming after authorized primary care doctors were prohibited from recommending medical marijuana to qualifying patients.

Medical Marijuana Support

A poll taken in January of 2019, showed that majority of South Carolina residents support legalizing medical marijuana. The sponsor for the Compassionate Care Act, Senator Tom Davis, recognizes this trend and is seeking to satisfy the will of the people. Senator Davis thanked “Law enforcement officials, business leaders and physicians who worked with members of this subcommittee to ensure that this medical cannabis bill reflects the will of the overwhelming majority of South Carolinians … but to also draw a bright line against the recreational use of cannabis.”

Unfortunately there still are some detractors of the Compassionate Care Act including State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), S.C. Sheriffs’ Association and S.C. Medical Association. All seem to be waiting until the FDA rules on medical marijuana before supporting legalization. SLED Major Frank O’Neal defended their stance saying, “Never before have we determined what medicine is by popular vote or legislation.”