MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Cannabis coming soon to the Carolina coast?
An activist group hopes this year’s 4/20 celebration is just the start of Palmetto State marijuana reform.
“Say if you’re on Ocean Boulevard and you buy a gram of cannabis," began Forestbrook resident Lahoma Ash, “And you get caught with it, you’re going to jail.”
Ash and her group, the Sensible Movement Coalition (SMC), hope to change that, circulating a petition that, if passed, would allow for possession of 28 grams of marijuana inside Myrtle Beach city limits.
“I think it would help everybody,” Ash continued.
Ash has canvassed the Grand Strand for SMC for ‘a few months’ and says the response to the initiative has been ‘mostly positive’.
The ‘Sensible Marijuana Ordinanace,’ written by the group’s executive director, Chad Thompson, would lower the penalty for misdemeanor marijuana possession inside Myrtle Beach city limits to the lowest penalty allowed by state law.
“No fine, no time," reads one of the group’s fliers promoting the petition.
The group says they have collected close to 400 of the more than 3,000 total signatures needed to place the amendment in front of voters at the polls this November.
“Enacting a total decrim law in Myrtle Beach will increase tourism and make national news,” Thompson writes in a letter addressed to local business owners. The letter continues to explain benefits of marijuana reform nationwide, even vying for donations.
“Together we can create a smart, fair, sensible marijuana ordinance in the City of Myrtle Beach," the letter concludes.
However, not all are ready to roll (up). Legislation aimed at bringing medicinal marijuana to the Palmetto State died in markup for the fourth consecutive year.
Among the groups lobbying against the change include the S.C. Law Enforcement Division and Sheriff’s Association.
“I appreciate the efforts they’ve gone through, but the bottom line is that the only way it will be safe and people will know what they will be getting and they know it’s going to be medicine is that we treat it like every other medicine, which is through the FDA,” said Jarrod Bruder, executive director of the S.C. Sheriffs’ Association, told the State newspaper in March.
SMC, which began reform efforts in Ohio starting in 2013, says it now has reform efforts mobilized in five states.
“It’s going to be the same Myrtle Beach as is it today except for residents will not have to be afraid of being penalized for small misdemeanor amounts of cannabis," said Bill Schmitt Jr., a canvasser who spent time collecting signatures along Ocean Boulevard on March 26.
“It doesn’t mean that there’s going to be marijuana free flowing the streets. It means the people that need it that need to smoke it as a medicine can do that without fear of being arrested,” Schmitt said.
The group says they plan on ramping up canvassing efforts beginning April 20 through the end of the summer.