For the first time ever, the South Carolina State Senate has advanced medical cannabis access legislation, the bipartisan Compassionate Care Act. By a vote of nearly 2 to 1, members approved the measure, sending it for further debate in the House of Representatives.
If eventually approved by the House, the measure would still need the support of Republican Governor Henry McMaster, who has not yet taken a firm public stance on the bill. The legislation, which was initially introduced by sponsor Senator Tom Davis (R) seven years ago, would establish a limited medical cannabis program in the state. South Carolina would be the 38th state to enact medical cannabis access.
In recognition of the program’s limited scope, Sen. Davis has repeatedly referred to the Act as “the most conservative medical cannabis bill in the country.”
The bill legalizes certain cannabis formulations under the authorization of a physician. Smokeable products would not be made legal under this Act. Instead, qualified patients would have access to cannabis products in the form of oils, salves, vaporizers or patches. Patients would be able to purchase and possess up to a two-week supply at a time, but possession of the plant form of cannabis would still be punishable as a misdemeanor offense. Those qualifying for medical cannabis include individuals with cancer, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis, and more. Patients who are currently treating a medical condition with prescription opioids, as well as those diagnosed with an estimated year or less to live, may also qualify. More conditions may be added in the future.
Similar to Utah and Louisiana, the act will not establish a medical cannabis dispensary program similar to in most states. Instead, card-holding patients will obtain their medication from state-licensed facilities that require a pharmacist to be on-site.
The Act also includes a sunset condition requiring lawmakers to revisit the law in 2028 to keep the program operational.
Speaking on the bill, NORML Political Associate Jacob McMaster said, “While some of the more restrictive provisions in the Compassionate Care Act may not be entirely ideal, this is nonetheless a welcomed step forward for cannabis reform in South Carolina. The access provided by this program will greatly increase the quality of life for qualifying patients, providing a safe alternative to many of the addictive prescription medications currently in use.”
If you live in South Carolina, please email your legislator in support of this important legislation.