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S.C. attorney general, SLED chief oppose new medical marijuana legislation

January 24, 2019

Days after similar medical marijuana bills were introduced in the S.C. House and Senate, S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson and South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel together announced their opposition to the legalization efforts.

“This is a real serious issue, and we need to think long and hard before we go jumping head first into it and join the number of states who have already chosen this course of action,” Wilson said Wednesday, referencing the Compassionate Care Act.

“I have said numerous times … never have I seen a piece of legislation that has the potential to change South Carolina in a negative way as this legislation does,” Keel said, flanked by members of the Legislature, the S.C. Medical Association and a statewide sheriff’s association.

“We are all standing and speaking with one voice, that we need to oppose this legislation,” Wilson said.

More than 30 states have already legalized medical marijuana; if the Compassionate Care Act was approved, the Palmetto State would join that growing list.

Keel, though, said that can’t happen.

“Medicine is not legislated,” the chief said, adding, “South Carolina has always been independent.”

The Compassionate Care Act – lengthily detailed in Senate bill 366 and House bill 3660 – would legalize, among other things, the regulated and monitored cultivation, transportation, purchase and consumption of medical marijuana. The state health department would essentially oversee the medical marijuana enterprise, which would also have ties to SLED.

Trained physicians could prescribe marijuana to people following an in-person exam and diagnosis; licensed patients would be allowed to have up to 2 ounces of marijuana or marijuana product equivalents – foods and tinctures, for example – every two weeks.

Wilson on Wednesday took issue with that amount.

“One ounce of marijuana can produce up to 60 joints. Two ounces, if we do our math, is 120 joints every 14 days,” the attorney general said. “That’s 240 joints a month. That’s an average of eight joints a day.”

The bills strictly prohibit smoking marijuana and punish the potential offense with a $150 maximum fine.

State Rep. Peter McCoy, R-Charleston, led the House version of the medical marijuana bill. State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, led the Senate version. State Rep. Bill Taylor, an Aiken Republican, is among the Compassionate Care Act’s supporters.

“It’s personal with me, very personal,” Taylor said in an interview last week with the Aiken Standard.

Both Davis and Taylor have described the medical marijuana legislation as the “most conservative” in the nation. Individually, Taylor has said the bills were written with South Carolina in mind.

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