South Carolina no smoking medical marijuana
South Carolina no smoking medical marijuana

You Can Have Medical Marijuana, You Just Can't Smoke It - South Carolina and Florida are Conservatives Regulating Cannabis Fails

Conservatives are doing their best to screw up marijuana policy in South Carolina and Florida.

Posted by:
Joseph Billions on Wednesday Feb 14, 2024

south carolina mmj program limits

South Carolina's MMJ Bill  Would Prohibit Smoking, Killing Economic Growth for a Nascent Industry?


When put up an article called, "When Conservatives Regulate Cannabis - Florida Caps THC Limits at 10%", the idea was to show how that once legalization happens, bringing non-regulatory ideas into regulation will be a failure.

Well, South Carolina say Florida, and said, "Hold my beer".

The Senate in South Carolina continued deliberations on a bill seeking to legalize medical marijuana on Thursday, sparking heated debates among lawmakers regarding potential disparities between the current proposal and a previous version passed by the chamber in 2022, which subsequently faced obstacles in the House due to procedural challenges.


Spearheaded by Senator Tom Davis (R), the bill aims to grant access to medical cannabis for individuals with specific medical conditions.


Senator Greg Hembree (R), a vocal opponent of the measure, took the floor for over ninety minutes, contending that the current legislation introduces more than 40 substantive alterations compared to its predecessor, thus warranting a cautious approach before its approval.


Hembree highlighted various concerns, including provisions related to pharmacists, vertical integration of businesses, and security protocols at medical cannabis facilities, arguing that they deviate from the framework endorsed by the Senate two years ago.


In response, Davis sought to clarify misconceptions, suggesting that there might be misunderstandings regarding the evolution of the legislation over time.


He remarked, "While there may be substantive changes there, they are substantive changes that I think make it even more conservative." He highlighted that he adjusted the language in the bill based on floor amendments adopted in 2022 to ensure clarity and alignment with the Senate's intentions, as amendments formulated outside the floor lacked clarity.


Senators will resume discussion on the bill next Tuesday. Davis stated that he would spend the weekend preparing a comparative analysis to illustrate the disparities in provisions between the current bill and the previous version.


Last week, the Senate failed to advance the measure to floor debate, falling short on a vote requiring two-thirds support. However, on Tuesday, lawmakers re-voted and passed the bill with a 23-13 majority, securing its place for consideration in the 2024 session.


During the initial debate on Wednesday, Davis reiterated his objective of crafting the most conservative medical cannabis bill in the nation, empowering doctors to assist patients while adhering to scientific principles and addressing conditions supported by empirical evidence indicating the medical benefits of cannabis.


He expressed optimism about the bill's passage, suggesting it could serve as a model for states seeking to empower doctors and patients without venturing into recreational legalization. He proposed that it could be particularly relevant for states to reconsider recreational use or aim to strengthen their medical cannabis laws to ensure greater rigour and control.


In essence, the bill permits patients to obtain cannabis from licensed dispensaries upon receiving a doctor's recommendation for the treatment of qualifying conditions. These conditions encompass specific ailments, terminal illnesses, and chronic diseases where opioids are typically prescribed.


During Wednesday's session, members approved an amendment explicitly stating that the bill does not compel landlords or property controllers to permit the vaporization of cannabis products on their premises.


As of Thursday, there were at least nine more pending amendments awaiting deliberation.


Statement of The Proposal


Below are the key provisions outlined in the proposal:


- Patients diagnosed with "Debilitating medical conditions" are eligible to receive medical cannabis recommendations. These conditions encompass cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Crohn’s disease, autism, terminal illnesses with a life expectancy of less than one year, and chronic illnesses where opioids are the standard treatment.


- Regulatory oversight and licensing of cannabis businesses, including dispensaries, would be overseen by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and the Board of Pharmacy. Dispensaries are mandated to have a pharmacist present during all operational hours to ensure compliance.


- To prevent monopolization of the market, the bill has been amended to include provisions limiting the ownership stakes individuals or entities can hold in businesses to no more than five per cent, both at the state and regional levels.


- The establishment of a "Medical Cannabis Advisory Board" is proposed, responsible for reviewing and adjusting the list of qualifying conditions for the program. Legislative leaders, alongside the governor, would now participate in appointing members to the board, following revisions to the legislation.


- Notably, the bill does not include provisions for taxing medical cannabis sales, addressing concerns that led to the rejection of the previous version by the House due to procedural regulations in the South Carolina legislature.


- Smoking marijuana and personal cultivation of the plant would be prohibited.


- The legislation includes a sunset clause, stipulating that it would expire eight years after the first legal sale of medical cannabis by a licensed facility, allowing lawmakers to reassess the effectiveness of the regulations.


- Doctors would have the authority to specify the amount of cannabis patients can purchase within a 14-day window, or recommend standard dosage limits for various forms of cannabis products.


- Packaging and labeling requirements would be implemented to provide consumers with health warnings, and products would be prohibited from being packaged in a manner that may appeal to children.


- Certain professions, including those in public safety, commercial transportation, and commercial machinery, would be ineligible for medical marijuana use or cannabis card issuance. This includes law enforcement, pilots, and commercial drivers.


- Local governments would have the authority to ban marijuana businesses or set regulations on licensing and operational hours. DHEC would be tasked with preventing the over-concentration of such businesses in specific areas.


- Lawmakers and their immediate family members would be prohibited from working for or holding financial stakes in the marijuana industry until July 2029, unless they recuse themselves from voting on reform legislation.


- DHEC would be required to produce annual reports on the medical cannabis program, including data on registered patients, qualifying conditions, products purchased, and an evaluation of how independent businesses serve patients compared to vertically integrated companies.


Alternative Avenues and Political Critique


Following the House's blockage of Davis's Senate-approved medical cannabis bill in 2022, he pursued an alternative route for the reform proposal but encountered similar procedural obstacles.


The lawmaker has criticized his own party's stance, particularly regarding medical marijuana, labeling it as "intellectually lazy" for failing to address current medical facts.


In contrast, a recent poll revealed substantial support among South Carolina adults for legalizing marijuana, with 76 percent favoring medical use and 56 percent supporting recreational use. U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) has highlighted these findings.


Bottom Line

South Carolina's ongoing deliberations on the medical marijuana bill underscore a nuanced balance between addressing patients' needs, ensuring regulatory clarity, and navigating political hurdles. Despite robust support among constituents and efforts to refine the legislation, challenges remain, including procedural obstacles and ideological divides within the legislature. While the bill represents a significant step towards granting access to medical cannabis for qualifying conditions, its limitations on smoking and other provisions may impact the industry's economic potential. Nevertheless, the debate reflects a broader national dialogue on cannabis policy, highlighting the complex interplay between public health, regulatory frameworks, and political dynamics in shaping marijuana legislation.





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