SC lawmakers talk taxes, medical marijuana

Published: Jan. 9, 2014 at 8:24 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 9, 2014 at 9:40 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, SC (WMBF) - From I-73 to Obamacare to marijuana, all subjects were on the table for South Carolina lawmakers to answer in the Statehouse Thursday.

At the South Carolina Broadcaster's Association legislative workshop, lawmakers from the Upstate, Midlands, Grand Strand, and Lowcountry debated hot button topics for the 2014-2015 legislative session.

The first topic discussed: President Obama's Affordable Care Act.

"When the Governor says not now, not ever, I'm confused by what she means," said Georgetown Senator Ray Cleary, "Because Obamacare is here in South Carolina."

Senator Cleary is one of the few Republicans who voted for the Medicaid expansion in the Palmetto State. There's a current bill on the House floor to nullify the federal law in South Carolina, but lawmakers say it's actually not possible to cancel out Obamacare.

"All we'll do is buy time for litigation we know we can't win," said Democratic Senator Brad Hutto. "But that's never stopped us before."

Lawmakers also discussed a proposed gas tax which would fund SCDOT road repairs. The tax would target tourists coming into South Carolina. Lawmakers said a tax credit could undo the damage done at the pump to in-state residents.

The topic that garnered the most conversation, though, wasn't on the day's agenda at all. One reporter in the crowd asked the panel if South Carolina may one day follow the path of Washington and Colorado in legalizing marijuana.

"There is room in this state and in this country from decriminalization," said Democratic Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter. Other legislators backed up her way of thinking. House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford said he already had legislation pending.

"Allow doctors to prescribe it in this state," he said, "from farmers who grow it in this state."

Representative Rutherford, a Democrat from Richland County, went on to explain a 1982 bill in South Carolina had actually legalized medicinal marijuana, but the program overseeing the drug's growth, prescription, and distribution required $450 million from DHEC.

The program never received that funding, according to Rutherford. His proposed bill would refund the program.

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