Friday, December 24, 2010

MPP - South Carolina takes a step in the right direction but still criminalizes patients

Last update: December 7, 2010

This past legislative session, both chambers of the South Carolina Legislature adopted a resolution, S 1343, which officially states the intent of the legislature to opt-out of a federal mandate requiring judges to suspend the driver’s license of any individual convicted of a controlled substances violation. Although this resolution, authored by Sen. Gerald Malloy (D -- Chesterfield, Darlington, Lee, and Marlboro counties), is merely symbolic, it instills confidence that next session legislation will be introduced, passed and signed into law which ends the mandatory suspension of a drivers license for a controlled substances violation. E-mail your legislators today and ask that they support legislation to accomplish this goal.

The passing of this resolution is a step in the right direction for the South Carolina Legislature; however, there is still ample sensible marijuana policy reform they ought to tackle. While 15 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws that protect individuals who use marijuana medicinally with a doctor’s recommendation, the South Carolina Legislature still feels it is necessary to arrest, prosecute and jail their most sick and debilitated constituents. However, history tells us there is an appetite for marijuana policy reform in the Palmetto State.

In 2007, Sen. William Mescher (R-Berkley Co.) introduced S. 220, a compassionate bill that would allow patients with cancer, multiple sclerosis, severe pain, and other serious illnesses to use marijuana with their doctors' approvals. Sen. Mescher seemed like an unlikely sponsor of medical marijuana to many people. However, his sponsorship demonstrates the fact that treating suffering is not a partisan issue.

Sen. Mescher's first wife died of lung cancer. Her doctor said that medical marijuana might be able to help relieve her pain and suffering and allow her to enjoy the end of her life. Sen. Mescher realized that South Carolina's policy of criminalizing the seriously ill is cruel and needs to be changed.

Sadly, Sen. Mescher died of a stroke on April 8, 2007. None of his colleagues in the Senate were willing to carry the bill and it died in the Senate Committee on Medical Affairs without any additional hearings. Please take a moment to contact your state representatives now and urge them to introduce a medical marijuana bill next session.

In order to move forward with marijuana policy reform, there needs to be an open discussion about the issue throughout the state. If you are interested in submitting letters to the editor in support of sensible marijuana reform, please e-mail for briefing papers and other assistance. Your help could be particularly useful if you are a doctor, nurse, clergy member, Ph.D., lawyer, or other influential member of your community.

It's up to you to convince your legislators that they need to pay attention and join the 15 states and the District of Columbia with sensible and compassionate medical marijuana laws. Please take action today.

Thank you for supporting the Marijuana Policy Project. Please pass this information on so that even more voices for reform can be heard. To stay updated on the status of marijuana policy reform in South Carolina, be sure to subscribe to MPP's free legislative alert service.

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