By a two-to-one vote ratio, South Carolina’s Senate approved a medical marijuana legalization bill that’s now headed to the House of Representatives for further deliberation.
The Compassionate Care Act was introduced to the Senate at the end of 2020 before clearing the Senate Medical Affairs Committee a few months later. Further progress was stymied, however, by one senator who managed to block its passage to a full floor vote.
Nonetheless, the measure’s sponsor, Sen. Tom Davis (R), persisted in building support for the reform which he described as “the most conservative medical cannabis bill in the country.”
If enacted into South Carolina marijuana laws, the measure would allow patients with certain conditions to possess and purchase cannabis products from state-licensed dispensaries.
Smokable forms of cannabis would be prohibited, as would home cultivation for personal use. Indeed, simple possession of cannabis flower would be punishable as a misdemeanor offense.
Qualifying conditions for medical marijuana treatment include, autism, epilepsy, cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, sickle cell anemia, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, cachexia, nausea, muscle spasms and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as patients with a terminal illness who have less than a year to live. South Carolina’s medical marijuana regulator would be able to add further conditions as it deems necessary.
“After seven long years of fighting, this Senate vote is truly an historic moment. It brings hope for so many who desperately need safe, legal access to medical cannabis,” said Jill Swing, executive director of the South Carolina Compassionate Care Alliance, in a press release. “I can never thank Senator Davis enough for his tireless efforts. But I am also grateful for all members of the Senate whose careful discernment brought them to a place of support for the Compassionate Care Act. SC House, here we come!”
Medical marijuana sales would be taxed by the state at six percent, while local jurisdictions would be allowed to impose an additional tax. Local governments would also have the authority to ban medical marijuana businesses from operating in its jurisdiction.
Seventy-five percent of state tax revenues would go towards the state’s general fund, once the costs of implementing the medical marijuana program have been covered. Ten percent would fund drug use disorder treatment services, five percent would go toward law enforcement, with the remaining revenues funding marijuana research and drug education programs.
Instead of medical cannabis dispensaries, the legislation calls for the creation of so-called marijuana pharmacies overseen by the South Carolina Board of Pharmacy, and requires that a qualified pharmacist is working on-site at all times.
South Carolina businesses would have licensing priority, and the first round of licenses would go to 15 growers, 30 processing facilities, five testing labs and four marijuana distributors, in addition to one cannabis pharmacy license for every 20 traditional pharmacies in the state.
Davis’s bill also contains a so-called sunset condition, meaning the law would need to be revisited by lawmakers again in 2028 in order to keep the medical marijuana program going.
Even if the bill clears the House, it would still need the approval of Gov. Henry McMaster to become law, and he’s yet to take a clear position on the reform.