COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Legislation that would legalize medical marijuana in our state is back in the forefront.
Supporters of the Compassionate Care Act continued their push for the bill Tuesday morning during a press conference by Compassionate SC.
A new medical marijuana bill sits in the state Senate. It would allow medical cannabis to be prescribed to people with certain debilitating medical conditions like cancer and PTSD.
Jill Swing is the founder of South Carolina Compassionate Care Alliance. She says her daughter has a severe case of epilepsy and it’s the reason why she’s been fighting for medical marijuana in the Palmetto State for the last five years.
“We’ve tried numerous pharmaceutical drugs and some of them have actually made her seizures much, much worse and the side effects are terrible, including: agitation, constipation, drooling, ticks, insomnia. Whereas, you just don’t see those types of side effects using very small amounts of cannabis,” Swing said.
Steven Diaz, a Purple Heart recipient, was hurt by an improvised explosive device in 2005 in Iraq. He was in the hospital for a year and eight months. He says while he was in the hospital he was prescribed some medications he was afraid to take.
“That road of substance abuse was something I saw first hand and didn’t want it to be part of my story,” Diaz said
Diaz is one of the many veterans in South Carolina suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He is now using his voice to advocate for medical marijuana to give his fellow veterans medical options.
“Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress are already stigmatized, they shouldn’t be stigmatized again because they are looking for an alternative way of healing,” he said.
Dr. Prakash Nagarkatti, the Vice President for Research at the University of South Carolina, says some components of marijuana have been approved by the FDA to treat epilepsy in children and auto immune disorders.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for healthy individuals to tell those patients, ‘No, you can’t have medical marijuana. Because if you start using that, we may start abusing it,’” Dr. Nagarkatti said.
Diaz says he hopes something can be done.
“I think we can see a decrease in the suicide statistic that is plaguing our veteran community,” he said.
SLED Chief Mark Keel, and other law enforcement officials, have said they believe many supporters are overlooking the unintended consequences that could come from passing this legislation.
Opponents of the Compassionate Care Act say with CBD now legal, medical marijuana is unnecessary. The South Carolina Medical Association says they are opposed to the bill. They would like to see more research into marijuana.
“The addition of THC, the whole plant therapies – as opposed to just the CBD – really make a difference in quality of life," Swing added.
In a January press conference, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson shared his concerns for the use of marijuana.
“He never said those exact words, that ‘marijuana is the most dangerous drug in America,’ said Wilson’s spokesperson Robert Kittle. "He said it is the most used drug in America and then said it’s the most dangerous because it’s the most misunderstood. "