SC lawmakers introduce medical marijuana legislation

Published: Jan. 13, 2017 at 11:21 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 18, 2017 at 12:23 PM EST
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South Carolina (WBTV) - This week lawmakers in South Carolina introduced a bill they hope will legalize medicinal marijuana in the state.

The bill, called the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act, is co-sponsored by Mandy Powers Norrell (D- Lancaster).

"It allows not only the possession of CBD oil in South Carolina, but it also allows the possession of low level THC," said Powers Norrell.

Powers Norrell said lawmakers previously legalized the use of cannabis oil, without THC, to help treat people with certain medical conditions.

She spoke to one family who has a child suffering from epilepsy and frequently has seizures. During treatment in another state, the family found that doses of low-level THC helped.

"There were some children who needed a low level of THC in order to get their seizures under control," Powers Norrell said.

In Rock Hill, advocates like Rosemary Wallace are hopeful a bill will pass.

Wallace said she suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other medical issues after her service in the U.S Army and Army Reserves.

Many of the medications Wallace has tried taking have led to other problems, she said.

"It causes me to have high blood pressure as of now, it's causing me to have heart problems right now, I have to use a CPAP machine right now," said Wallace.

Wallace does have a medical marijuana prescription in Colorado. She said she moved there for an entire year for treatment.

She continues to use in South Carolina even though she knows it is illegal.

"If we can't get something done here, I'm going to have to go home because I can't keep being sick and risk the chance of being arrested for using cannabis," said Wallace.

Similar bills have failed in past years.

Law enforcement agencies and some lawmakers still have concerns that some might abuse medicinal marijuana for recreational use. Under the proposed bill, Powers Norrell says there are safe guards in place.

"We have a very strict seed to sale program to prevent recreational use of cannabis which is not something that we want and is clearly not something that South Carolinians want," Powers Norrell said.

Norrell said that under the proposed bill, growers would be licensed by the state. Any violations could lead to the grower being shut down or criminally prosecuted.

Sub committees would need to hash out details of the bill like what type of doctors can prescribe the medicinal marijuana and for what types of conditions.

Epilepsy, PTSD, and chronic pain are just some of the possible reasons a patient might seek a prescription. Some current prescription medications used to treat chronic pain can be addicting, Powers Norrell said.

"It makes no sense that medication that's in the same family as heroin is being used as a first line of defense for chronic pain," said Powers Norrell.

WBTV reached out to state Senator Harvey Peeler for reaction on the proposed bill. Senator Peeler has been against medicinal marijuana legislation in previous years.

A representative from Peeler's office told WBTV the state senator has not had time to review specifics of the bill and did not want to make a comment.

While there are sure to be arguments on both sides of the controversial topic, advocates like Wallace are hopeful this is the year a law gets passed.

"I'm being made a criminal here in this state. Not a patient," Wallace said.

According to Powers Norrell, the bill has been introduced in both the house and the senate and will head to sub committees for further discussion.

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