Medical Cannabis Symposium lays out case for SC Compassionate Care Act
By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Coker College hosted a medical cannabis symposium on Sunday, November 5 at the Davidson Auditorium for the purpose of informing the public about the progress in medical research and the status of medical-only marijuana legalization efforts in the South Carolina legislature.
Speakers included Jill Swing, longtime medical cannabis advocate and president and founder of the SC Compassionate Care Alliance. Swing said her advocacy stems from a very personal place, as her young daughter suffers from intractable epilepsy – a treatment-resistant disorder that plagued the little girl with up to 1,000 seizures a day.
Swing said her family tried all the approved medical treatments for their daughter to no avail, and wanted to try CBD oil, which is a non-psychoactive derivative of the cannabis plant. CBD oil has been clinically used to successfully treat seizure disorders in many severe cases of epilepsy, but the oil was illegal in South Carolina until 2014 – too late to help Swing’s daughter through the devastating early years of her disorder.
“I am just a mom with a chronically ill child, who is fighting for safe and legal access to medicine that I know will improve her quality of life,” said Swing.
She said she founded SC Compassionate Care Alliance to advocate for medical legalization of cannabis through a state-regulated program so that her child and other patients have the option to pursue cannabis and non-psychoactive marijuana products to treat illnesses and abate symptoms when other drugs and treatments fail to yield results.
Dr. Prakash Nagarkatti, Ph.D., vice president of research at the University of South Carolina, discussed the latest science on using cannabis derivatives to treat numerous conditions, ranging from cancer and cardiovascular disease to neurodegenerative and autoimmune illnesses. Nagarkatti observed that even though clinical research overwhelmingly shows that cannabis can effectively treat many ailments, the federal government remains intractable on the issue of national legalization – a stand he questioned as potentially hypocritical.
Nagarkatti noted that since 1970, the U.S. government has classified cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug and claimed that it has no medical usage, but the federal government holds patent No. 6630507 for marijuana as a treatment for neurological diseases.
The SC Compassionate Care Act (currently in subcommittee in the SC House and Senate) calls for a state program administered by SC DHEC that allows 15 cultivation licenses, 30 processing licenses, 5 laboratory licenses, and 1 dispensary for every 10 pharmacies in the state. State-licensed physicians could recommend cannabis treatment for patients suffering from one of the conditions approved in the bill, and card-carrying patients or their caregivers could obtain up to 2 ounces of cannabis or equivalent products every 14 days from state-licensed dispensaries.
SC Senator Tom Davis (R, District 46) talked about the bills, both of which propose strictly regulated medical-only use of cannabis derivatives for the treatment of specific illnesses.
Davis stressed that both bills have a long way to go before they come before the full Senate or House for votes. Each bill is currently in subcommittee and would be required to pass full committee review before reaching the floor. Davis said that he expects some socially conservative politicians could outright oppose passage or effectively obstruct the bills, but he noted that such actions – in his opinion – run counter to the stated goals of the GOP.
“A legitimate pretext for government acting has to be to prevent harm from us to others… if my behavior causes harm to somebody else, that’s when government should step in and say ‘no, we’re going to stop that behavior.’ Except to that extent, I believe government ought not be involved,” said Davis. “How is that not a Republican principle? A conservative principle? We are supposed to be about expanding liberty and limited government…but that goes out the window when we are talking about a social issue.”
Davis said that while the first steps toward medical legalization may not be perfect, South Carolina needs to take action sooner rather than later and work closely with law enforcement to perfect oversight programs once the bill is passed. He encouraged anyone who supports this bill to reach out to their local legislators and voice their support for medical-only cannabis legalization.
The South Carolina Compassionate Care Act bills are S212 (Senate) and H3521 (House). To learn more about this legislation, visit www.sccompassion.com or search for the bills through www.scstatehouse.gov.