COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The results are in: 82 percent of Democrats in South Carolina want to legalize doctors to prescribe medical marijuana.
Medical marijuana supporters see this as a plus toward their goal of getting legislation passed in the State House. Others who are opposed say the poll is not as it seems.
Jeff Moore is an advocate whose son has moved out of state to legally medicate using marijuana; he suffers from PTSD from serving in the military, deployed to Iraq. Moore says patients like veterans, children with epilepsy, cancer patients, and people in pain resorting to opioids should matter more in the case for legalizing than statistics or numbers do.
"Your lives matter. You know we talk about black lives matter, white lives matter, all lives matter… your lives matter. Don't let anybody tell you that your life should be forfeited just because you need a certain drug that isn't available right now," Jeff Moore said.
Moore worked as a lobbyist for law enforcement in the State House for several decades. This is his one remaining cause he's working toward now separately from his old job, legalizing medical marijuana.
"As I've said before, this does not have to be the boogeyman under the bed that scares everybody to death. It seems to be working just fine in those states that have medical marijuana laws," Moore said.
This has been a controversial debate over the years in the State House. There were bills to legalize medical marijuana that got some movement but not enough to pass this session.
The question is, does this ballot poll move the meter at all for medical marijuana? Even with the poll, it's still up to the legislature if it's to be legalized.
The Sheriff's Association released this statement on Thursday, explaining their position on the subject:
That process, however, has not been considered by the South Carolina General Assembly. Instead, the General Assembly has considered legislation that would bypass FDA regulation and prescriptions from doctors and violate federal law. Therefore, the wording of the ballot question either indicates a shift in position from those who supported the legislation earlier this year or the question is disingenuous.
So, while the Sheriffs of South Carolina have extreme compassion for those who are suffering from debilitating illnesses, we cannot endorse or even ignore the attempt to provide relief through illegal methods. If cannabis has medicinal benefits, it should be treated and regulated in the same manner as all other medicine is in the United States, which is through legitimate research and oversight by the FDA. To date, however, the FDA has stated that they have found no medicinal value to cannabis."
Chief Mark Keel of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division said marijuana hasn't gone through enough testing.
"This is yet another attempt by those whose real intent is to profit from the legitimate suffering of some people. We continue to support federal funding for the testing and evaluation that could result in medicines based on marijuana and regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration which regulates all legal prescription medication. As we have pointed out repeatedly, legislation should not replace science," he said in part, in a statement.
Supporters argue it has been tested and proven to help patients. Candidates for governor are weighing-in.
"It should be regulated just like any other narcotic. My father passed away from brain cancer. If there was anything to ease his pain towards the end, I would have supported that. So, I do support medical marijuana," Republican John Warren said.
"It depends on what the details are. If law enforcement is foursquare against it as they are now, I will not sign it," Governor Henry McMaster said.
"It would have a medical purpose and a medical use and that that is legitimate, real, and very significant, significant for many of my fellow veterans who have found an inability to get back to work," Democrat James Smith said.
There have been other polls that show support for medical marijuana, like the Mason-Dixon poll released in January. 61 percent of South Carolinians polled showed support. On Tuesday, however, those who voted in the Republican Primary didn't weigh in. They had different questions on their ballots.