Medical marijuana bill discussed in state committee

Published: Feb. 16, 2017 at 4:16 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 16, 2017 at 5:58 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Some lawmakers in South Carolina believe marijuana could be exactly what sick people in our state need. But not everyone's on board with legalizing it for medical use, which is what one Senate bill aims to do.

S. 212, or the Compassionate Care Act, would authorize people like those suffering from epilepsy or PTSD, to take 2 ounces of marijuana every 14 days, under a doctor's recommendation.

"I live every day in fear that somehow they're going to figure out a way to kick her out of school or not allow her to ride the bus because of her behavior," Judy Ghanem said.

Ghanem traveled to Columbia from Murrells Inlet on Thursday morning, for the meeting. Her daughter, Kira, is 11 years old. She has developmental disorders that cause her pain and seizures. Ghanem is for the bill, Senator Tom Davis' bill. She believes it could cure pain her daughter endures, but cannot communicate.

"I am constantly in extreme pain. I don't have pleasurable use of my legs at all. I actually wear a unit on my side that sends electrical stimulations into my spine to try to block out the pain," Brant Reese said.

Reese is also for the bill. He is a former sheriff's deputy, who now suffers from a spinal cord injury from a freak accident. He has a 'why not' view on medical marijuana, believing it could be safer than the medication he's currently on. He currently takes morphine daily, for pain.

Ghanem and Reese are some of the group in support of the bill, to attend the Senate Medical Affairs Subcommittee meeting on Thursday morning.

"Imagine the frustration if you're somebody or if you had a child that had epilepsy or if you were a veteran who had PTSD, and are sitting down with your physician and the physician was making a diagnosis and then making a recommendation to based on his or her medical training as to what can give you relief, and yet the laws on the book don't allow the doctor to prescribe that to you," bill sponsor Sen. Tom Davis (R- Beaufort) said.

The committee included senators on both sides of the issue.

"Tens of thousands of South Carolinians today will use marijuana. What we do with this bill isn't going to change that. But what we're trying to do is address those who want to use it legally," Sen. Brad Hutto (D- Orangeburg) said.

"There's also a lot of medical professionals, the vast majority of whom I talked to have problems with this bill," Sen. Kevin Johnson (D- Clarendon) said.

Law enforcement argue that the federal government, agencies like the FDA (Federal Drug Administration) and DEA (Drug Enforcment Administration) won't authorize marijuana. They say the substance can be addictive, and have lethal consequences, and worry over enforcing the use for some people and not all.

"It makes access greater. It makes access greater to our youth. It makes access greater to those people who don't need it for medicinal purposes, if there is a medical purpose behind it," SC Sheriff's Association Director Jarrod Bruder said.

Bruder says law enforcement sympathizes with patients and parents, but also wants to see proof that marijuana works as a medical cure.

The committee is going to meet again in two weeks to hear testimony; medical experts and law enforcement will speak. Bruder says the sheriff's association plans to put up parent witnesses who have lost children to marijuana overdoses.

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