Most polls indicate that approximately 83 percent of Americans are in favor of legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. Democratic voters in South Carolina have echoed this sentiment this week, in an advisory ballot, issued by party leaders. The ballot read, “Do you support passing a state law allowing doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to patients?” To this, voters overwhelmingly voted yes. Approximately 82 percent (comprised of 200,255 ballots) voted in support of legalizing the medicinal plant. While the state legislature is controlled by Republicans, the vote may still inspire lawmakers to push forward on future plans to legalize the plant.
Earlier Attempts at Legislation
Earlier this year, South Carolina’s Senate and House approved the “S.C. Compassionate Care Act” bill that would legalize medical marijuana this year. The bill would have allowed patients suffering with cancer, HIV, PTSD, autism, or any condition causing debilitating pain to be prescribed medical marijuana from their doctor. Unfortunately, however, neither bill progressed to a vote on the floor of either chamber before the legislative session ended.
A Push from the Democrats
Former U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles reportedly encouraged both parties to participate in asking South Carolina residents about their thoughts on marijuana legalization. The Democratic party were the only ones to actualize this in the advisory ballot. Republicans asked questions that allowed them to get a sense of what support was like for the closed primaries and the Trump-backed tax plan. Nonetheless, the overwhelming support shown by Democrats in state is a loud message to lawmakers about how the public feels about the subject.
Scott Wheldon, Executive Director of Lowcountry NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), told Charleston City Paper, “As someone who has been working on this issue for several years now, I can assure you that state lawmakers want to know where their constituents stand with regard to supporting marijuana law reforms before they will have the confidence to take action. I’m certain the results from (Tuesday’s) election will be the catalyst for future conversation about this issue.”
Public Sentiment Toward Cannabis
A Pew Poll conducted earlier in the year showed that 61 percent of Americans are in favor of legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use. The plant is already legal for recreational use in eight states that make up 20 percent of the country. It is legal for medical use in 29 states where it acts as a form of treatment for a variety of conditions including cancer, AIDS, HIV, Alzheimer’s Disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, glaucoma, chronic pain, brain injuries, seizures and epilepsy as well as a host of other illnesses.
Parents of children with epilepsy and other debilitating disorders have been at the front of the push towards legalizing the plant for medicinal purposes. For many children whose development has been stunted by multiple seizures a day, medical marijuana has allowed them to have ordinary lives again. Many patients with a wide variety of conditions have reported immense, life changing benefits from using the plant. Now people residing in South Carolina are closer to having access to the medical treatment that others across the country have experienced.