For years medical marijuana advocates have pleaded with South Carolina lawmakers to legalize cannabis for medical use. From parents of severely epileptic children to veterans and sufferers of multiple sclerosis, residents in the southern coastal state are eager to join the 36 other states that support safe access to legal medical marijuana. 

In December 2020, lawmakers filed two versions of the Compassionate Care Act, with differing specifics. Both would allow patients with qualifying medical conditions to access medical marijuana from state-licensed dispensaries, and forbid home cultivation.  

The house version, H.3361, would permit marijuana flower to be smoked, and patients to possess up to two ounces or its equivalent in edibles or topicals. The Senate’s more conservative bill, S. 150, sponsored by State Senator Tom Davis, forbids smoking as a form of consumption. Only oils, edibles, and topicals would be available to patients. 

Davis has worked to pass the Compassionate Care Act for nearly a decade. In past years the bill has gained bipartisan support, though law enforcement and other associations have pushed back due to fear that the bill will open the gates to legalizing recreational marijuana use, despite the worsening opioid epidemic. Davis invited those who opposed the bill to voice feedback, concern and criticism to help shape a conservative bill that can serve as a template for other states looking to empower physicians invested in providing patients with alternative methods of pain management and treatment. 

In January, a virtual news conference hosted by the SC Compassionate Care Alliance featured some of the state’s top physicians who are advocates of the bill including Dr. Jamelah Lemon, president of the S.C. Podiatric Medical Association. She reported that medical cannabis is proven to help reduce pain and wants to offer this treatment to her diabetic patients. Vice President of Research at University of South Carolina agreed, saying that the treatment option would be pivotal in alleviating pain for millions who suffer from chronic illnesses. 

Senator Davis believes COVID stalled the bill’s success in 2020, and is confident the controversial bill will be signed into law as early as February 2021. The bill, which he describes as ‘thoroughly vetted’, now has support from influential lawmakers including Sen. Stephen Goldfinch Jr., Sen. Luke Rankin and Sen. Katrina Shealy. 

The prefiled bill is currently in the Senate Medical Affairs Committee awaiting a hearing.