Medical marijuana bill advances in Statehouse

Medical Marijuana
FILE

GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – Smoking weed is steps closer to becoming legal in South Carolina. A bill seeking to legalize the use of medical marijuana is advancing in the statehouse.

Tuesday night, a house committee unanimously passed the bill that will now go to the full house.

Emily McSherry is one of thousands of medical marijuana patients in the state. She suffers from epilepsy and a chronic nerve condition.

“I’ve been using the healing properties of the cannabis oil to help control my seizures and help to reduce the pain I experience on a daily basis,” McSherry said.

She says with the drug, she’s been able to cut her prescribed medications down to one, and she is now more productive.

“With cannabis, I’m able to be more active, to be a better parent, and to be a contributing citizen,” McSherry said.

Law enforcement says the passage of the bill which would legally allow people with certain illnesses to gain access to all forms of marijuana would be harmful to the community and spur crime, especially with black market selling.

“There’s this lack of control,” said Chief Ken Miller, the president of the Carolina Police Chiefs Association. “It’s a huge issue for policing. It’s a huge issue for stability.”

The bill would allow people to buy two ounces of marijuana every two weeks from dispensaries.

“That’s 120 marijuana cigarettes,” Miller said.

Currently, an ounce of weed could get a person locked up for a minimum of two years with a felony.

Under the bill, doctors would have to write prescription recommendations since they wouldn’t be able to legally prescribe the drug.

“People are going to abuse this,” Miller said. “People are going to get fake cards.”

Miller says the fact that it’s a cash business will cause problems.

“If that dispensary is behind me here, you can bet someone is going to be robbed going to it, and someone is going to be robbed coming from it,” Miller said.

Police say it’s also going to make it hard for them to determine who’s using it lawfully or not and could put officers in jeopardy of being accused of profiling.  However, supporters don’t think it will be that big of an issue.

“Those that are using it for adult use or recreational use, that’s not going to change,” McSherry said. “We are looking at patients having legitimate and safe access.”

Deputies say if the law is passed, they would have to get new K9s which would cost taxpayers around $7500 each. All of the law enforcement drug dogs in Greenville County are trained to detect THC, a component of marijuana that causes the “high” feeling, and with marijuana legalized, there would potentially be too many false alarms.

The State Senate is also hearing a similar bill.

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