The dominos continue to fall. South Carolina is the latest with a new bill to legalize medical cannabis, and other states are likely to follow suit. Labelled the Compassionate Care Act, Bill 150 was officially passed by the Senate on its third reading on February 10. It means it will now go to the House of Representatives for final consideration.
Treating a range of conditions
Cannabis information site Cannaconnection recently published a blog post about nursing homes across the US using cannabis instead of drugs like morphine, and end-of-life care seems to be a major focus of the new South Carolina legislation, with legislators specifically stating that patients with less than one year to live are eligible.
In addition, the bill specifies multiple sclerosis, cancer, epilepsy Crohn’s disease, glaucoma sickle cell anaemia, autism and muscle spasms and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among the conditions for which cannabis can be prescribed.
Visions of hospital patients smoking cannabis cigarettes should, however, be put aside. The bill states that smoking cannabis, for whatever reason, remains prohibited, as does possession of smokable cannabis or cultivation of cannabis plants. Medical marijuana will be available in the form of vape concentrate, oils, salves and patches. It will only be dispensed by specific pharmacies, with a maximum two-week supply handed out at any one time.
All this makes the Compassionate Care Act one of the most conservative cannabis bills the country has seen, a fact that the bill’s sponsor, Senator Tom Davis has been quick to emphasise. He has spent the past eight years working on the bill, and it looked all set to pass in 2021 before being blocked by a lone senator. Senator Davis said he always knew it would take work and amendments to move the Act forward, telling ABC News: “It took a while to educate my colleagues as to why this is efficacious, and to point out to them 37 other states have done this, and that various medical associations are pushing for this.”
The final steps
The bill next moves on to the House of Representatives, and Senator Davis caused some controversy by stating last month that the House Speaker Jay Lucas will allow it through the house process once it is approved by the state senate. A House of Representatives spokesman later commented on the remarks, saying “Senator Davis does not speak for Senator Lucas.”
Even assuming is passes through the House, there is the final step of being signed into law by Governor Henry McMaster. The 74 year old Republican told a local Fox network that if it lands on his desk, his decision on whether to sign or veto the bill will “depend on a lot of things.”
However, for all the words of caution, there is a general feeling that it is only a case of when, not if, the Compassionate Care Act will come into effect. For thousands living with life-threatening medical conditions, it can’t come too soon.