The fight over legalized medical marijuana in South Carolina escalated Wednesday when an anonymous mailer showed up in Lowcountry mailboxes blasting the effort's leading proponent and accusing him of wanting to turn the state "into one big pot party."
State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, is ridiculed extensively in the flyer, which through photo-shopping depicts him in a Hawaiian shirt and holding a big bag of weed.
Girls in scant bikinis are dancing behind him, apparently on the sand at Myrtle Beach.
"Party boy Tom Davis is pushing a risky plan to legalize medical marijuana here in South Carolina," the message states, with a hand holding a joint in the center view.
On the inside of the four-page mailer, more bikini-clad women are dancing in front of the Statehouse. Another female is pictured with a bong up to her mouth.
Pot leaves are shown on some of the message's wording as well.
Nothing on the flyer identifies who paid for it or sent it, other than a return address, a Columbia post office box.
Davis told The Post and Courier the opposition to his bill is being dishonest by harkening back to the 1930s and the hysteria caused by "reefer madness.”
“You ought to have the courage out there to put your name behind it. I have no idea who did it," Davis said. "It underscores the lack of any solid intellectual basis for not empowering doctors to do what’s in their patients’ interest."
Davis' Statehouse office phone is also included, with the message to call and stop Davis from turning "South Carolina into California."
Davis made light of the mailer on the Senate floor Wednesday, telling his colleagues, "I could never get women like that to attend a party of mine."
South Carolina is one of three states that doesn't track any third party or outside political advertising. Even if it did, the flyer might not be covered by reporting requirements because its message doesn't advocate for or against Davis' election.
The S.C. Medical Association, one of the largest health related groups in the state to oppose legalizing medical marijuana, said it wasn't responsible for the mail-out.
“This debate is not personal. While we have a policy position, it stops with that," said Patrick Dennis, senior vice president and general counsel.
"These types of personal attacks have no place in this serious debate," he added. "While we disagree with Senator Davis on the issue of marijuana, the South Carolina Medical Association has the highest respect for the job he does.”
The S.C. Sheriffs' Association said its group was not behind the effort either. S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson's office also said it had no knowledge about it.
Wilson joined a press conference recently announcing several groups' opposition to Davis' bill, joining Gov. Henry McMaster, State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel and other police groups in speaking out against medical marijuana becoming legal here.
McMaster rejected the anonymous tactic in speaking to the press Wednesday.
"That kind of ugly thing has no place in politics and no place in South Carolina," he said. "People ought to quit doing that kind of ridiculous stuff."
Davis has said he wants to work with law enforcement to craft a bill that would not allow the drug to be abused by people not approved for medical access. That includes requirements on the doctors who prescribe it, limiting the ailments it can be prescribed for and dispensary regulations. The bill is currently in a medical subcommittee.
Nationwide, at least 33 states have set up regulations to allow the legal use of marijuana for medical reasons.
The flyer also takes a jab at Columbia news website founder Will Folks, a Davis political ally and founder of FITS News.
Other medical marijuana supporters said Wednesday they also saw the mailer as out of bounds.
"No disclosure as to who paid for it," tweeted state Rep. Peter McCoy, R-James Island, who said he received the mailing at his home address Wednesday.
"It’s highly offensive this trash mockery is sent in the mail, let alone with no disclosure, when people across our State are suffering," he said.
Seanna Adcox contributed to this report.