General Legislative Information

Compassionate South Carolina (CSC) is a statewide coalition of patients, families, and advocates working to establish a comprehensive medical cannabis program in South Carolina. This issue is supported by a strong majority of South Carolinians and is crucial to the health of and well being of thousands of residents. CSC has spent the summer traveling across the state to host educational and informational events on the potential health benefits of medical cannabis and the positive impact a comprehensive and well-regulated medical cannabis program could have for seriously ill patients in our state.

In January 2017, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act (S 212/ H 3521), which would allow patients with qualifying debilitating medical conditions and their physicians’ recommendations to use and safely access medical cannabis. The Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) would regulate and license medical cannabis businesses and issue registration cards to qualifying patients and their caregivers.

Medical cannabis is proven to be a safe and effective treatment option for a broad range of serious medical conditions. A vast majority of Americans — including 76% of physicians who said they would recommend medical cannabis to a patient — recognize the legitimate medical benefits of cannabis. Link To More Information

A large number of renowned medical organizations also recognize these benefits. The American Medical Association, The American College of Physicians, and the Institute of Medicine have all acknowledged the potential benefits of medical cannabis, and several additional major health organizations support legal access to medical marijuana, including the American Public Health Association and the American Nurses Association.

In addition to enjoying strong physician backing nationwide, doctors in South Carolina also believe patients should have legal, safe access to medical cannabis. Dr. Stephen Merlin, MD, an addiction specialist who has practiced in South Carolina for almost 30 years, said:

I have come to believe medical cannabis should be allowed because of the clear objective evidence of its efficacy, and because it is so much less dangerous than opioids and many other medications. I support the Compassionate Care Act because this bill has medical safeguards — it stipulates that a legitimate medical doctor with a doctor-patient relationship must issue a recommendation … it stipulates conditions for which medical cannabis has been proven to benefit as well. This bill is not a pathway to legalization or a first step towards recreational use. It is a narrowly tailored, state-regulated approach that will ensure safe and legal access for patients with debilitating conditions.

According to a review of more than 10,000 scientific abstracts released by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in January 2017, “There is conclusive or substantial evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids are effective” in the treatment of chronic pain in adults, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, and multiple sclerosis spasticity. It also found no link between smoking cannabis and lung cancer; no physiological ‘gateway’ effect; and no link between cannabis use and mortality, overdose deaths, or occupational accidents. Link To More Information

Drugs that may be legally administered to patients — including cocaine, morphine, and methamphetamine — often come with serious side effects, and many patients simply do not respond to them. South Carolina should allow access to medical cannabis, which has a far lower risk of dependency and does not cause fatal overdoses.

The opioid epidemic that we are currently facing has grown dramatically over the past two decades in South Carolina. Link To More Information

These overdose deaths have become the leading cause of injury death in the United States. In 2011, 55 percent of drug overdose deaths were related to prescription medications; 75 percent of those deaths involved opiate painkillers.  Link To More Information

In the JAMA study, researchers found that opiate-related deaths decreased by approximately 33 percent in 13 states in the following six years after medical marijuana was legalized.

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Beyond offering a less dangerous treatment option, medical cannabis can also help patients suffering from cancer, HIV, and hepatitis C. In its 1999 report “Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base,” the Institute of Medicine concluded, “Nausea, appetite loss, pain and anxiety are all afflictions of wasting, and all can be mitigated by marijuana.”

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Marijuana and its active components — cannabinoids — can both stimulate appetite and reduce the nausea, vomiting, and weight loss experienced by patients in many circumstances, including the side effects of drug therapies given for. Our state’s sickest residents should have safe, legal access to a treatment option that could potentially provide them with relief.

Access to medical treatment options should be based on scientific evidence, and the evidence is clear: Medical cannabis is proven to be safe and effective in the treatment of many debilitating conditions.

If you have any questions or concerns — or would like additional information on the legislation or on medical cannabis — please do not hesitate to contact us. We will be happy to schedule a meeting with you or your group, below you can find additional resources as well.

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