COLUMBIA, S.C. — A group opposed to the legalization of medical marijuana in South Carolina says lawmakers must reject a new bill that they say will cause serious social and medical problems if passed.
The group spoke Wednesday at a public speech in the rotunda of the South Carolina State House. Included in the group were South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel, as well as other state law officials, politicians, and religious and anti-drug abuse advocates.
Last week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers announced they were sponsoring a bill know as the Compassionate Care Act. They say it offers help to patients without legalizing recreational drug use.
The measure would only allow the use of medical marijuana for specific conditions, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and PTSD, where there's medical research showing the drug can help. It would also track the production and sale of the drug at all steps in the process, and fine someone $5,000 fine, 5 years in jail, or both if the marijuana is dispensed for recreational use.
But those opposed said the bill will ultimately lead to serious consequences for society.
"Marijuana is the most consumed illicit drug in the United States of America," Wilson said. "It is the most dangerous drug, because it is the most misunderstood drug."
Wilson claimed in state's that have legalized it, it's led to an increase in recreational use, and of teens getting their hands on the drug.
"It is the drug that teaches our children about all other drugs," Wilson said.
He said the Compassionate Care Act would allow up to two ounces of marijuana to be dispensed to patients every two weeks. He said that amount the drug would allow people to roll 8 marijuana cigarette joints a day.
The group said while they have compassion for patients who are in pain or suffering from chronic illness, they also have compassion for the victims of legalizing marijuana in any form. They said there would be an increase in crime and fatal car accidents.
'Never have I seen a piece of legislation that has a potential to change South Carolina in a negative way as this legislation does," said SLED Chief Mark Keel. "When government endorses something, people think it's okay."
Dr. March Seabrook, who represents the South Carolina Medical Association, said his organization agrees with some changes to marijuana law, but not this one.
"Marijuana is not a medication, and this bill will not improve the health of South Carolinians," Seabrook said.
He said doctors would have no control over the drug's potency. While the SCMA is against this bill, he said they are in favor of changing marijuana to a Schedule 2 drug at the federal level, which would allow more research. He also said they support some use of CBD cannabis oil, and a specific type of CBD that helps people with epilepsy that's already gotten FDA approval.
The Compassionate Care Act is expected to get a subcommittee hearing in the coming weeks.