Is this the year medical marijuana gets legalized in SC? The bill’s GOP sponsor believes so

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Published: Jan. 7, 2022 at 4:10 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 7, 2022 at 7:45 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) -Beaufort Republican Tom Davis has been fighting for medical marijuana legislation in South Carolina for years, but he is hopeful this is the year his bill is passed and signed into law.

“I’m optimistic about this bill being approved by both chambers of the legislature and sent to Governor McMaster before we adjourn in May,” he said. “I’ve done a pretty good canvassing of my colleagues in the state senate. I’m confident that I have a majority of Senators in favor of this bill.

Sen. Davis, R-Beaufort, says his bill is “very conservative” while also allowing doctors to give patients suffering from debilitating health conditions like Crohn’s, PTSD, and chronic pain.

“It’s not going to be as liberal or as generous or as broad as some other bills, but that’s ok because it is a bill that reflects what South Carolinians want,” Davis said. “They want to empower doctors to help patients who truly need cannabis for medical conditions.”

Davis says he has studied the bills passed in 36 other states that allow marijuana for medicinal use and has used that research and conversations with doctors, patients, businesses, and law enforcement to craft a bill he hopes sets an example for the rest of the country.

“I have taken the best provision, best part of those bills and come up with a bill that I think is a template for any state that wants a medical bill that empowers doctors, empowers patients, but at the same time doesn’t want this to be a slippery slope to recreational use,” he said.

Last year, Davis expressed a similar optimism. But his bill did not pass the Senate before the session ended. He says the reason it got held up was time and other bills taking precedent.

“Legislation in the Senate is sort of like an airplane taxiing on a runway at an airport,” he said. “Only a certain number of planes can take off at a certain amount of time. And last year, we had some bills that were very important especially to my colleagues in the Upstate. Some very socially conservative bills.”

Davis said he is not upset that bills about abortion and open carrying of firearms went first and added he has been assured his turn is coming.

“The Senate Majority Leader very graciously said to me he said, ‘Tom, we have some bills we want to get done by the end of the year, but I will make sure your bill is one of the first ones up when we reconvene in January,’” Davis recalled Sen. Shane Massey telling him.

Davis’ confidence comes despite consistent pushback from some members of the law enforcement community, including South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel and no public showing of full support from Gov. McMaster.

“There may be some answers there but I want to have more information and see the experience in other, other states,” McMaster said last summer.

Keel has told WIS in the past that he does not support the legislation because marijuana is an illegal drug that the FDA has not approved for treatment of any disease or condition. But while Keel is looking for federal sign off, Davis says federal budget provisions that allow states to implement their own laws around medical marijuana.

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