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Congresswoman Nancy Mace lobbies for medical marijuana during SC Statehouse visit

Mace Congress Cannabis

U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace (center), R-S.C., speaks during a news conference about a cannabis reform bill she introduced on Nov. 15, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. File/Jacquelyn Martin/AP

COLUMBIA — U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace was in the South Carolina Statehouse to rally lawmakers’ support for a state bill to legalize medical marijuana despite staunch opposition from law enforcement and members of her own party.

Toting her Havanese dog Liberty in a bag around her arm, Mace arrived in the Statehouse on Jan. 25 to meet with Republican leaders and Gov. Henry McMaster in support of Beaufort Republican Sen. Tom Davis’ Compassionate Care Act.

The act, if passed, would establish a legal framework in South Carolina for certain qualified individuals to obtain non-smokable cannabis products for medical use.

Davis’ bill is expected to head to the floor Jan. 26 to be debated for the first time after seven years of effort.

Mace, a onetime member of the S.C. General Assembly, has sponsored legislation to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level and said she sees the effort as a cornerstone issue in the future of the Republican Party.

"Republicans are the ones leading on these issues," she said in an interview. "This is not just Democrats' issues. And in our bright-red, conservative state, it's conservatives that are leading the revolt. That's a good thing for South Carolina."

The Charleston Republican has been an outspoken advocate for the psychoactive drug in Washington, D.C., garnering the support of groups like the Koch Foundation’s Americans for Prosperity, the pro-cannabis organization NORML and retail giant Amazon, which formally endorsed her decriminalization legislation in a statement on Jan. 25.

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Legalizing marijuana, she said, is immensely popular. Gallup polling from November showed more than two in three Americans supported legalizing marijuana, a record high.

But while legalized medical and recreational marijuana has gained traction nationally, efforts such as Davis' bill, which he calls the “most conservative in the nation,” still faces obstacles at home, particularly as support for medical marijuana remains tepid among Republican voters.

At the same time, the South Carolina Senate is set to gavel into session Jan. 26 to begin discussing Davis' bill, opponents such as the Palmetto Family Council will hold a counterprotest on the Statehouse steps. They'll feature a group of speakers from law enforcement, the medical community and families whose lives have been impacted by marijuana abuse, Palmetto Family Council President Dave Wilson told The Post and Courier.

Meanwhile, the South Carolina Republican Party, which opposes both Davis’ and Mace’s legislation, reaffirmed its opposition to both bills, saying it could not support legislation that would violate federal law or the state party platform, which includes a provision to “oppose any effort to legalize the use of controlled substances.”

Mace said anyone who opposes medical marijuana — the South Carolina GOP included — simply doesn’t understand it. She believes the party should work to make it a centerpiece of its future platform.

Contact Nick Reynolds at 843-834-4267. Follow him on Twitter @IAmNickReynolds.