COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — The South Carolina senators will soon debate a bill that would legalize cannabis for medicinal use for residents with debilitating conditions.

One of those is Jill Swing’s daughter.

“Mary Louise shouldn’t have to continue to suffer and other patients across the state shouldn’t continue to suffer when this medication is available in 36 other states,” Swing said.

Swing is the founder and president of the South Carolina Compassionate Care Alliance. She said she’ll be watching next week’s floor debate closely.

“I genuinely hope that every single Senator that walks into that chamber opens their minds and their hearts,” Swing said. The legislation was given special order, which means the Senate cannot take up another bill until it votes on S.150.

The SC Compassionate Care Act would allow a physician in South Carolina to prescribe medical cannabis for a patient with cancer, multiple sclerosis, a neurological disease or disorder (including epilepsy), sickle cell anemia, glaucoma, PTSD, autism, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, cachexia, a condition causing a person to be home-bound that includes severe or persistent nausea, terminal illness with less than one-year life expectancy, a chronic medical condition causing severe and persistent muscle spasms, or a chronic medical condition for which an opioid is or could be prescribed based on standards of care.

The bill’s sponsor, Beaufort Republican Sen. Tom Davis said there are limitations in the legislation. He called it the most conservative medical cannabis bill in the country.

The bill would create a seed to sale tracking system and sets out certain regulations.

Smoking or burning of marijuana leaf would not be allowed under the bill. “I want to empower physicians. I want to help patients who could benefit from cannabis to alleviate their medical conditions,” Sen. Davis said. “But I want it to be tightly regulated and controlled. I don’t want it to be a precursor to adult recreational use.”

Law enforcement officials have concerns over this legislation.

“We absolutely have compassion for those that are suffering,” said Jarrod Bruder, Executive Director of the South Carolina Sheriff’s Association. “From a law enforcement sector, we also have to be looking at the unintended consequences and how helping some may hurt others.”

In a statement provided Friday afternoon, SLED Chief Mark Keel reiterated his opposition to the bill:

My position on medical marijuana is well known and unchanged. Until it is approved by the FDA, prescribed by a physician, and dispensed by a pharmacist I remain opposed to it. Doctors cannot legally prescribe it and pharmacists cannot legally dispense it. I remain very concerned about the short term and long term effects this legislation will have on the state I have devoted my life to serving. Over my 43 years in law enforcement in South Carolina, I have seen the damage that drugs cause to children, families and communities. In South Carolina and across the United States, marijuana is the number one reason for addiction and treatment admissions for minors between the ages of 12 and 17. Simply put, passing this legislation will make marijuana more accessible to our most vulnerable, our children. 

Chief Mark Keel, SLED

Davis said debate over the bill will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday. He said he’s confident it will pass.

As of Friday, 36 other states have legalized medical marijuana.