Thirty states have legalized marijuana for medical use, with twenty still debating the issue, including South Carolina. The East Cooper Republican Club in Charleston, South Carolina recently hosted a forum to discuss the passage of the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act, with Senator Tom Davis, Representatives Lin Bennett and Nancy Mace, Jill Swing, President, SC Compassionate Care Alliance, and Christopher Pelic, MD Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC).
According to the act, the qualifying conditions for medical marijuana are “cancer, multiple sclerosis, a neurological disease or disorder, sickle cell anemia, glaucoma, PTSD, a condition causing a person to be homebound that includes severe or persistent nausea, or a chronic medical condition causing either severe and persistent muscle spasms or for which an opioid is currently or could be prescribed by a physician based on generally acceptable standards of care.” And with the constant news about opioid addiction, with Charleston County the worst in South Carolina for overdoses, proponents of the act make a strong case for medical cannabis, especially as a replacement for addictive opioids.
At the forum, Senator Tom Davis, a proponent of the act, said the case for legalizing marijuana for medical use is based on “good medical science”. He commented on a specific case where medical marijuana resulted in “seizures up to one hundred per hour go down to zero”.
Even doctors in the addictions field, such as Christopher Pelic with MUSC, advocate for the use of medical marijuana. As a physician, when it comes to prescribing, he said medical marijuana is something that he would like to “have in my arsenal”. Some interventions work better than others so he believes this is something that should be in his toolkit as a physician.
Resistance to the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act comes in part from law enforcement and because South Carolina is a conservative state. For some people, it took time for them to do get on board with the act. Representative Lin Bennett admitted she initially “was totally against this“. In doing her own research, she learned this is a viable solution for patients and encouraged other people to do their own research. “This drug helps.”
Concerns were raised at the forum by Coroner Rae H. Wooten who said she was “troubled by a lot of the loopholes in the bill” and believes the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act is a “stepping stone to legalization”.
It is a legitimate concern. There are still many who view marijuana as a gateway drug to more serious drugs, potentially leading to abuse. In that case, it appears to be just as bad as opioids.
Davis reiterated his stance that this should still be legal for medical use and this would be “the most conservative medical cannabis program in the country”. Pelic noted it is important to look at risks and benefits and to have “protections in place” like any other medicine. When prescribed to children, Pelic acknowledged there “could be some consequences to a developing child” yet also noted “untreated seizures do damage to the brain”.
Although some argue that CBD is good enough without the THC, Jill Swing of South Carolina Compassionate Care said in her experience, the “whole plant derivative including the THC” is what worked best for her daughter. “She was a different child”.
Legalizing cannabis for medical use is also a protection for patients and their caregivers. Once legalized, what goes into it is regulated, benefiting desperate family members who now turn to the black market. They would no longer have to go to the streets to buy it and not know exactly what they are getting.
A regulated plant-based derivative does sound better than chemicals we create in the lab, whether it is opioids or other highly addictive substances. As Bennett said “God gave us this”. Since a majority of South Carolinians support legalization for medicinal use, it does appear that Bennett could be right. Maybe God really did give this to us…to use responsibly.