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CityWatch: Medical marijuana is about relieving suffering, not enabling stoners

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Medical Marijuana

There are many political battles that divide us. But I’ll be damned if I can see why medical marijuana is one of them.

This is about relieving suffering, not enabling stoners. Patients with certain terrible diseases need and deserve our compassion, while those looking for a toke can already easily find one in this or any other state.

That said, the following point must be emphasized as it is the crux of the matter: There is an enormous difference between legalizing recreational marijuana (opposing that is fine with me) and legalizing medical marijuana (opposing that is not fine with me).

Nor should it be fine with anyone who cares about their fellow man/woman/child who is suffering terribly from various horrible diseases that the use of medical marijuana can help alleviate.

On this issue, both the medical evidence and public opinion keep getting stronger. It is increasingly clear that to be opposed to the use of medical marijuana is to be opposed to medicine. And the relief of human suffering.

It is also to be at odds with 72 percent of your fellow South Carolinians, whom polls show favor legalizing medical marijuana.

Yet South Carolina remains one of only 14 states that prohibit the prescription of medical marijuana by physicians, and two of those have passed measures that should soon make it legal.

Indeed, we are increasingly an outlier on this issue, not just nationally but even in the Southeast region where opposition to medical marijuana was once strong but has dropped dramatically.

Southern and border states that have already legalized medical marijuana include Florida, Virginia, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and West Virginia. Not exactly a group of left wing enclaves.

Not that this should be about politics. Instead, it should be about pain relief. No matter your party.

And that has certainly been the case with S.C. Sen. Tom Davis of Beaufort County, a Republican who has led the charge for medical marijuana with compassion and without fear.

Davis has taken the heat without flinching, and after six years of determined effort he recently cleared a major hurdle when the Senate Medical Affairs committee passed the bill on a bipartisan 9-5 vote.

He says he is optimistic the full Senate will do the same, but that will have to happen as soon as this week in order for the bill to be taken up and voted on by the House this year and hopefully enacted into law.

Adding to the momentum, Gov. Henry McMaster, who had previously opposed the bill, publicly left the door open for it should it reach his desk.

While McMaster did not outright say he would sign the bill, he did say he has an “open mind” on the issue.

Further, the governor said that when it comes to medical marijuana, “It’s clear that it alleviates a lot of suffering.”

As the vote approaches, this is where you come in, dear reader. Take a minute to call or email your senator today. Or better yet, every senator who represents your county, or every senator of your party, or every senator, period.

And if it passes the Senate, then do the same with House members.

And if it passes the House, do the same with Gov. McMaster.

Tell them all you want your family members, and theirs, to have this medical option if they need it and their doctor prescribes it.

And tell them this is about relieving suffering, not enabling stoners.

Kevin Fisher is president of Fisher Communications, a Columbia advertising and public relations firm. He is active in local issues involving the arts, conservation, business and politics.

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