AP NEWS

SC law enforcement still harshly against medical marijuana

January 23, 2019
1 of 2
FILE - In this Sept. 20, 2018, file photo, an employee at a medical marijuana cultivator works on topping a marijuana plant, in Eastlake, Ohio. South Carolina lawmakers are once again introducing legislation to legalize marijuana for treatment of critically ill patients in the state, making another go at a debate that has gradually made progress in this deeply red state in recent years. Sen. Tom Davis, a Republican from Beaufort, told The Associated Press that he plans on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2018, to file the Compassionate Care Act in the state Senate. (AP Photo/David Dermer, File)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Legislation to legalize marijuana has been making progress in conservative South Carolina, but the state’s top law enforcement officials and doctors got together Wednesday to say they are still fired up in opposition.

The Compassionate Care Act has both Republican and Democratic sponsors in the General Assembly. It would allow doctors to prescribe 2 ounces (57 grams) of marijuana every two weeks, makes it illegal to smoke the drug and has a specific list of ailments it can be used for including cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder.

State Sen. Tom Davis, one of the chamber’s most conservative Republicans, calls the bill he sponsored the most restrictive medical marijuana law in the country, even making it a felony to convert medical marijuana to personal use.

But the state’s top prosecutor and law enforcement officer, joined by sheriffs, police chiefs, other state lawmakers from both parties and doctors from the South Carolina Medical Association all said at a Wednesday news conference that medical marijuana would make it too easy for teens and young adults to obtain the drug. They also said the medical benefits of marijuana are still uncertain.

Cherokee County Sheriff Steve Mueller said his fellow officers don’t lack compassion for people who think marijuana is the best drug to help ease pain or other chronic symptoms. But the bill would harm South Carolina much more than it would help, he argued.

“We’re urging the members of our General Assembly to not let those who are pulling at your heart lead you to bypass the processes and the systems that have been protecting each and every one of us from harmful substances for more than a century,” said Mueller, who is also president of the South Carolina Sheriff’s Association.

Others at the news conferences cited statistics from California and Colorado — which also allow recreational marijuana use — about increases in drug overdoses and addictions. They said marijuana use often leads to the abuse of more dangerous drugs and that allowing medical marijuana use would be a slippery slope leading to complete legalization of the drug.

“Marijuana is not a medication and this bill would not improve the health of South Carolina,” said Dr. March Seabrook, the president of the state Medical Association.

Davis stood in the crowd during the news conference, taking notes. He pointed to the scribbling all over his paper when it was finished, telling a reporter “I kind of lost track writing down all of those absurd assertions.”

Davis said Wednesday’s speakers must not have read the dozens of pages in his bill, which includes a training program for doctors before they could prescribe marijuana and a tracking system for any marijuana used for medicinal purposes from farm to dispensary.

He said he was especially disappointed by doctors who prescribed much more addictive and dangerous opioids for years being against him.

A total of 33 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico allow some type of medical cannabis program, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. But almost all the Southern states of the old Confederacy are exceptions.

Davis said the reaction by these officials to this bill, which is waiting a hearing in a Senate committee, shows they have old-school mentalities about drugs that haven’t changed over generations.

“It’s like we traveled back to the 1950s,” Davis said.

State Attorney General Alan Wilson organized the news conference, saying marijuana is the drug that often leads to people become addicted to stronger drugs, like methamphetamine.

“Considering the following words used by marijuana users to describe the state of being high. They used words like stoned, high, wasted, baked, fried, cooked, Chonged, Cheeched, dopefaced, blazed, blitzed, blunted, blasted, danked, stupid, wrecked — and that’s only half the word that they used,” Wilson said. “Are they consistent of something that described a medicine?”

______

Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP. Read his work at https://apnews.com/search/jeffrey%20collins