Domestic abuse, rape survivors would need evidence for medical marijuana under SC bill

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SC Statehouse in Columbia (file)

COLUMBIA, SC (WBTW) — Survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence would have to show proof that they were assaulted in order to qualify to use medical cannabis for post-traumatic stress disorder, under a prefiled bill in a state senate subcommittee.

S. 150, which was prefiled on Dec. 9 and is currently in the Senate Committee on Medical Affairs, would legalize medical cannabis in South Carolina for a handful of different medical conditions.

In order to get a prescription to use cannabis to treat PTSD, individuals have to provide proof or evidence they have experienced a traumatic event. As filed, that evidence could include proof of military service in an active combat zone, or that the individual was a first responder. It does not elaborate on what evidence would be accepted for a physical or sexual assault survivor to access the medication. 

Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, has been attempting to get the bill passed for six years. Davis said he added the evidence requirement to the bill after several senators expressed concerns about patients potentially faking PTSD.

“What it was was an attempt to address the concerns by some that a subjective condition like PTSD, which isn’t diagnosable in a way that other conditions are, that there would be some solid, objective, empirical evidence of that,” Davis said. 

He said that his intent was not to require survivors to file or have filed a police report, but that he does not know what acceptable evidence would be. 

“I would anticipate it being a low baseline,” Davis said. “It is not the intent here to create a hurdle.”

Davis said that requirement may need to be clarified.

“What I am attempting to do here is express the concerns of some who say, what’s to stop somebody from just stopping in at a doctor’s office and saying, ‘I’ve undergone a traumatic experience, give me a prescription for cannabis,’” he said. 

About a quarter of rapes that occurred in 2018 were reported to police, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. It is the most under-reported crime. 

About 21.3% of women and 2.6% of men in the United States have been raped at some point in their lives. More than half of those women were raped by an intimate partner.

Reasons for not reporting the attacks to police vary. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, 20% of those who don’t report say they fear retaliation, 13% believe the police won’t do anything to help, 13% thought it was a personal matter and 7% did not want their attacker to get in trouble, among other reasons. 

Multiple abuse advocate agencies either did not respond to requests for comment or said they would not comment on the record about the evidence requirement because it was attached to a medical marijuana bill. 

Davis said it was important for him to include PTSD as a treatable condition in the bill because of the stories he’s heard from veterans. Hearing stories about veteran suicide and those who have been prescribed medications that turn them into “zombies,” he said, has been a compelling argument to other lawmakers to support medical cannabis.

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