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A South Carolina House committee will hold a hearing on a Senate-passed medical marijuana legalization bill this week—raising expectations that lawmakers may finally enact the GOP-led measure in the final days of the 2024 session after months of delay. And a Republican congresswoman from the state is urging supporters to “keep pushing.”

The legislation from Sen. Tom Davis (R) has been billed as strictly conservative, but it’s yet to move since being delivered to the House in February. Now the House Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs Committee has announced that a Medical Cannabis Ad Hoc Committee will take up the measure on Tuesday.

Davis pointed out that there are just three weeks left in the session to get the bill through the full chamber before potentially going to the desk of Gov. Henry McMaster (R). Any amendments made in the House would mean that it’d need to return to the Senate for concurrence, so lawmakers have little time to waste.

The sponsor also pointed out that, at the same time that an Indiana tribe in neighboring North Carolina is opening its first medical cannabis dispensary, his “even-tighter” bill has laid idle in the “freedom loving House,” despite recent polling that shows the reform enjoys overwhelming bipartisan support in his state.

Kevin Caldwell, a legislative manager at the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), told Marijuana Moment on Monday that the organization is “glad that this historic legislation is getting a committee hearing in the South Carolina House of Representatives.”

However, he added that advocates would have preferred the panel to invite patients and caregivers to testify, but the agenda says members will only accept witnesses from law enforcement and the medical community for this hearing. It notes that there may be another meeting in the future to take general testimony.

“Hopefully, any issues they have can be quickly dealt with and finally move this legislation to the floor for a vote,” Caldwell said. “The patients of South Carolina deserve to know where their state representatives stand on this issue.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC), who has been a vocal supporter of the legislation, encouraged the legislature to get the job done in a series of social media posts over the weekend.

“Medical cannabis can save lives, reduce drug addiction to opioids, help vets with PTSD, help with chronic illness and provide a better quality of life for the terminally ill,” she said. “Keep pushing!”

The South Carolina Senate had passed an earlier version of the legislation in 2022 but it stalled in the opposite body over a procedural hiccup.

Overall, the bill would allow patients to access cannabis from licensed dispensaries if they receive a doctor’s recommendation for the treatment of qualifying conditions, which include several specific ailments as well as terminal illnesses and chronic diseases where opioids are the standard of care.

When senators began debating the medical marijuana legislation in February, the body adopted an amendment that clarifies the bill does not require landlords or people who control property to allow vaporization of cannabis products.

As debate on the legislation continued, members clashed over whether the current version of the legislation contains major differences from an earlier iteration that the body passed in 2022.

Certain lawmakers have also raised concerns that medical cannabis legalization would lead to broader reform to allow adult-use marijuana, that it could put pharmacists with roles in dispensing cannabis in jeopardy and that federal law could preempt the state’s program, among other worries.

Here are the main provisions of the bill

  • “Debilitating medical conditions” for which patients could receive a medical cannabis recommendation include cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Crohn’s disease, autism, a terminal illness where the patient is expected to live for less than one year and a chronic illness where opioids are the standard of care, among others.
  • The state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and Board of Pharmacy would be responsible for promulgating rules and licensing cannabis businesses, including dispensaries that would need to have a pharmacist on-site at all times of operation.
  • In an effort to prevent excess market consolidation, the bill has been revised to include language requiring regulators to set limits on the number of businesses a person or entity could hold more than five percent interest in, at the state-level and regionally.
  • A “Medical Cannabis Advisory Board” would be established, tasked with adding or removing qualifying conditions for the program. The legislation was revised from its earlier form to make it so legislative leaders, in addition to the governor, would be making appointments for the board.
  • Importantly, the bill omits language prescribing a tax on medical cannabis sales, unlike the last version. The inclusion of tax provisions resulted in the House rejecting the earlier bill because of procedural rules in the South Carolina legislature that require legislation containing tax-related measures to originate in that body rather than the Senate.
  • Smoking marijuana and cultivating the plant for personal use would be prohibited.
  • The legislation would sunset five years after the first legal sale of medical cannabis by a licensed facility in order to allow lawmakers to revisit the efficacy of the regulations.
  • Doctors would be able to specify the amount of cannabis that a patient could purchase in a 14-day window, or they could recommend the default standard of 1,600 milligrams of THC for edibles, 8,200 milligrams for oils for vaporization and 4,000 milligrams for topics like lotions.
  • Edibles couldn’t contain more than 10 milligrams of THC per serving.
  • There would also be packaging and labeling requirements to provide consumers with warnings about possible health risks. Products couldn’t be packaged in a way that might appeal to children.
  • Patients could not use medical marijuana or receive a cannabis card if they work in public safety, commercial transportation or commercial machinery positions. That would include law enforcement, pilots and commercial drivers, for example.
  • Local governments would be able to ban marijuana businesses from operating in their area, or set rules on policies like the number of cannabis businesses that may be licensed and hours of operation. DHEC would need to take steps to prevent over-concentration of such businesses in a given area of the state.
  • Lawmakers and their immediate family members could not work for, or have a financial stake in, the marijuana industry until July 2029, unless they recuse themselves from voting on the reform legislation.
  • DHEC would be required to produce annual reports on the medical cannabis program, including information about the number of registered patients, types of conditions that qualified patients and the products they’re purchasing and an analysis of how independent businesses are serving patients compared to vertically integrated companies.

After Davis’s Senate-passed medical cannabis bill was blocked in the House in 2022, he tried another avenue for the reform proposal, but that similarly failed on procedural grounds.

The lawmaker has called the stance of his own party, particularly as it concerns medical marijuana, “an intellectually lazy position that doesn’t even try to present medical facts as they currently exist.”


Kyle Jaeger via (https://www.marijuanamoment.net/south-carolina-lawmakers-will-take-up-senate-passed-medical-marijuana-bill-this-week-earning-praise-from-gop-congresswoman/)

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