State Sen. Tom Davis says rumors of his medical marijuana bill’s death have been slightly exaggerated.
He hasn’t given up hope yet for his Compassionate Care Act. And he won’t, as long as he has the chance to ease the pain of people suffering from Parkinson’s, post-traumatic stress disorder, glaucoma, the side effects of chemotherapy or any other affliction through doctor-prescribed cannabis.
Public opinion is on his side, as are many elected officials on both sides of the political aisle. Unfortunately, law enforcement, some special-interest groups and time are not.
After hearing the testimony of experts Thursday in the Senate Medical Affairs Committee, the Beaufort Republican next week plans to introduce a new round of amendments to address the concerns of people who fear medicinal pot might fall into the wrong hands ... or become a gateway to legalizing recreational smoking. As some really low-rent, juvenile mailers suggested earlier this year.
Davis has the best of intentions here. He just wants people in South Carolina to have the same remedies that people in 33 other states have. The senator has added amendments to the proposed law that would keep medical marijuana out of the hands of truck drivers, law enforcement or people who operate heavy machinery. He added a provision that makes it easy to sue doctors who negligently prescribe pot.
How much further does he have to go? Under this proposal, no one can even smoke the stuff. It has to be ingested, used as an oil or a salve. The Compassionate Care Act has more fine print than a contract for a car loan. But Davis continues to work with social conservatives, medical groups and faith-based opponents to try to ease their concerns.
“They want to make sure it’s policy that can’t be abused,” he says. “They want to make sure it’s strictly a medical bill.”
It already is. But Davis says he understands, that’s part of the legislative process. He’s right — but don’t expect his opponents to act with the same good faith. Law enforcement officials are not likely to come around, but Davis hopes to strengthen his legislation enough that they at least drop their opposition. But he’s unlikely to silence anyone whose pocket might get lighter or who might get the vapors.
Some of these groups claim they’ll go along with medical marijuana when the Food and Drug Administration endorses it, but don’t hold your breath. The agency has been skeptical about the research of medical pot. You know, other than an exhaustive National Academy of Sciences study and nearly three-dozen states where it is a legal practice.
Unfortunately, some people are too bullheaded to change. They cling to silly stereotypes, are old-fashioned or simply don’t understand science. It also doesn’t help when Attorney General Alan Wilson calls pot the most dangerous drug in the country. Which suggests Wilson is just blowing smoke to pander to low-information voters.
Reporters and pundits say medical marijuana is toast on a technicality because the crossover deadline has passed. That’s wonky legislative-speak for the point in a session when it’s too late to send Senate bills to the House and vice versa. Davis says that’s not a problem.
“The General Assembly can do anything it wants once there’s consensus on an issue,” he says. “And I’ve always thought if I could get a bill through the Senate, the House would go along.”
As it should. A Winthrop poll found 78 percent of South Carolina residents want to see marijuana legalized for medicinal purposes. That, along with studies that show the benefits of medical marijuana, should be reason enough. Unfortunately, the Legislature has a tendency to get wagged around by Upstate conservatives ... who are all about morality until their preferred candidates show an abundant lack of them.
A lot of people in South Carolina are suffering, not the least of which are the 77 new souls diagnosed with some form of cancer every day. Sen. Davis is trying to make their pain, and a lot of other folks’ ailments, a little more palatable.
But then, he’s a little more compassionate than some people — namely, the ones sitting on their high horse.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org.