Davis, Herbkersman pre-file medical cannabis bills for 2021

5 mins read

From staff reports

On Wednesday, Dec. 9, two Beaufort County lawmakers pre-filed bills to legalize medical cannabis in the state.

The South Carolina Compassionate Care Act was introduced by long-time medical cannabis advocate Sen. Tom Davis (R) in the Senate and Rep. Bill Herbkersman (R) in the House.

This is the first time Rep. Herbkersman has served as the lead sponsor in the House. The previous House sponsor, Rep. Peter McCoy, was appointed U.S Attorney.

Rep. Herbkersman cited his late brother’s experience finding relief from medical cannabis as he was stricken with cancer as a motivation for sponsoring the bill.

“It is unacceptable that South Carolinians with serious illnesses have to break the law to alleviate their suffering. My brother deserved better,” Herbkersman said in a release. “Our friends, family, and neighbors deserve the same options to medicine that are afforded to Americans in 36 other states. Waiting any longer will only add to the suffering that is experienced by those who are plagued with debilitating illnesses. Passing this legislation is long overdue.”

The bills would create a comprehensive, well regulated medical cannabis program to allow patients with serious medical conditions and illnesses to safely access and use medicinal cannabis, when recommended by their physicians.

While the bills are similar, the House bill is considered less restrictive as it would allow doctors to recommend medical cannabis for patients with any debilitating medical condition and allow for more modes of administration.

“I feel there is a very good chance we get something passed this session,” Davis said in a release. “This bill has been fully vetted after five years of testimony and input from various stakeholders. The time has come for lawmakers to get out of the way and allow patients, in consultation with their physicians, to legally and safely access medicinal cannabis.”

A summary of the House bill (H. 3361), can be found at https://bit.ly/3mmY2YL, and a summary of the Senate bill (S. 150) can be found at https://bit.ly/3r0tG1F.

“Research has made it evident that the health benefits of medical cannabis use outweigh the potential risks. South Carolinians deserve the ability to safely and legally use a substance that has been proven to be effective in treating a variety of medical conditions and poses fewer negative side effects than many prescription drugs, especially opioids, which continue to claim many lives,” Dr. Bill Griffith of Anderson said. “The illegality of medical cannabis in our state is forcing many patients to rely on the dangerous underground market to access their medicine. Passing this legislation would ensure that patients have safe, tested, and reliable access to medical cannabis.”

Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi area among the 36 states that have legalized cannabis for medical use. According to a 2018 Benchmark Research poll, South Carolinians overwhelmingly support allowing cannabis for medicinal use – 72 percent of South Carolinians favor medical cannabis legalization, including 63 percent of Republicans.

Hilton Head Island’s Margaret Richardson suffers from trigeminal neuralgia. Her husband, Scott Richardson, is a former state senator and ex-director of the S.C. Department of Insurance.

“I am speaking not only for myself but all South Carolinians who suffer from devastating medical conditions. We should have the choice to use medical cannabis and not suffer through the horrible side effects of taking opioids,” Margaret Richardson said. “Unless you have had a family member or close friend experience this level of excruciating pain, it’s hard to understand the personal devastation. Passing this legislation will give us – your constituents, friends and neighbors, many of whom are suffering in silence – a chance to live our lives with dignity.”

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