36 states currently allow medical cannabis. Soon, another may be joining them from one of the most conservative regions of the country.

Next week, the South Carolina State Senate will consider a bill to legalize medical marijuana in the state. The proposed legislation—the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act—has received “special order” priority status which ensures 1) that it will be taken up on the Senate floor, and 2) that senators must vote on it before moving forward with any other pending bills.

Should it clear the Senate, the bill will then move expeditiously through the state’s House of Representatives.

“I fully expect that, given those commitments, that we’re going to be standing here in three or four months celebrating a bill signing with [Gov. Henry McMaster (R)] to finally make us not one of the 14 states that refuses to acknowledge medicine, but one of the 37 states that has recognized it,” said State Senator Tom Davis (R), the bill’s sponsor.
Davis has fortified the SCCCA with eight years of research that he says he’ll use to “take on every single argument that has been raised in opposition to this bill, and I’m going to show that they cannot stand in the way of facts and evidence.”

Although the bill gains momentum in 2022, it was notably stagnant in 2021, failing to reach consideration prior to the closing of last year’s legislative session despite clearing the Senate Medical Affairs Committee in March. Davis has pushed zealously to get the SCCCA passed, even threatening to use his power to block other bills from advancing if his didn’t.

Just as medical cannabis patients are advised to take a “start low, go slow” approach, so too does the SCCCA in terms of its scope. It bans both home cultivation and smokable marijuana products, and those with qualifying conditions will be permitted to possess and purchase only a two-ounce maximum every two weeks.

Still, this marks a significant worldview shift from one of the nation’s staunchest conservative bases. In fact, support for medical marijuana in South Carolina has grown since as recently as 2018, when a Benchmark Research poll found 72 percent support for the reform, which included 63 percent of Republicans. The state’s Democratic primary election also saw 82 percent of voters in favor of medical cannabis legislation, albeit in a nonbinding ballot advisory vote.

With any luck, South Carolina’s Lowcountry will become the “High Country,” and patients everywhere in the state get access to the relief they need that only medical cannabis can provide.

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