A bipartisan group of South Carolina state representatives led by House Minority Leader J. Todd Rutherford
has introduced compassionate legislation that would establish a workable medical marijuana program in South Carolina. Under the Put Patients First Act, seriously ill patients would be able to possess and cultivate a limited amount of marijuana. It also creates a system of registered medical marijuana providers to ensure patients have safe and reliable access.
According to a July 2014 poll by ABC News 4/Post and Courier, most South Carolina voters support allowing qualifying seriously ill patients to access medical marijuana legally, instead of being treated as criminals. Support was found across party lines, age, race, sex, ideology, and geography. It’s clear now more than ever: South Carolina should enact a workable medical marijuana program.
South Carolina lawmakers are proving that sensible and humane marijuana policy isn’t a partisan issue. State Representative Mike Pitts — a Republican — has not only cosponsored House Minority Leader J. Todd Rutherford’s medical marijuana bill, he’s also introduced his own common-sense proposal. H. 3117 would replace South Carolina’s criminal penalty for marijuana possession with a simple civil fine, similar to a traffic ticket.
Two and half years ago, the Montana legislature gutted the 2004 voter-approved medical marijuana law and replaced it with a law that got as close to repeal as possible. Since then, the state has been fighting in the courts to defend its ill-considered law. Victory was finally handed to Montana patients this month when the presiding judge ruled that caregivers can continue to operate under the state’s marginally functional system. This means they can continue serving an unlimited number of patients — not just the three that the 2011 law allowed, in addition to other important provisions.
While the ruling allows patients at least some access to their medicine, it falls short of the sensible medical marijuana dispensary system that patients deserve, and that almost every other medical marijuana state now has.
State Senator Karen Tallian has long been a champion for improving marijuana-related laws in Indiana, and she has already introduced a new, compassionate bill that would establish a medical marijuana program in Indiana. If passed, SB 284 would allow patients to use and safely access medical cannabis, as is the case in 23 states and the District of Columbia.
Medical marijuana can effectively alleviate a wide range of debilitating symptoms and medical conditions, and seriously ill Hoosiers should not be subject to arrest and criminal penalties for using medical marijuana. Nearly half the U.S. population lives in a state that has a medical marijuana program, including Illinois and Michigan. Seriously ill patients in Indiana should not be left behind.
606 days. That’s how long it’s been since the Illinois General Assembly passed the medical cannabis law. Today, after all that time, nobody can say when seriously ill patients will be able to access medical cannabis.
On May 17, 2013, a coalition of seriously ill patients, doctors, legislators, community leaders, and MPP’s lobbying team saw passage of a compassionate law that was 10 years in the making. Sadly, the best-case scenario is that it will take two years from that date for Illinois to provide relief to those patients.
Since then, the state has developed rules in a system that is one of the most regulated — and some say one of the most over-regulated — systems in the country. Businesses applied four months ago and press reports indicated licenses would be issued by the end of 2014. Yet they still have not been selected, meaning patients are at least four more months from access (the amount of time it takes for a plant to produce harvestable cannabis).
The medical marijuana issue got a big boost in Kentucky this week when a bill was introduced by House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg). The bill, HB 3, would make medical marijuana legal for Kentucky patients who are certified by a physician. It would task the Department of Public Health with establishing a patient registry, issuing ID cards to patients who qualify, and licensing and regulating dispensaries that would produce and sell medical marijuana for patients’ use.
Unfortunately, the bill is very restrictive in many respects. Although it covers a broad range of medical conditions, it does not allow patients to cultivate their own plants, and it only allows medical marijuana to be used in a non-smoked form. However, HB 3 is a much better bill than the very limited CBD-only bill that passed in 2014, and if implemented, it would bring great relief to many patients who are suffering needlessly.