Congress Hands A Mixed Bag to Marijuana Movement

The year-end spending bill gives momentum to the marijuana movement, plus a painful setback

For the marijuana legalization movement, 2014 ends the way it began: with legal changes that showcase the movement’s momentum alongside its problems.

Tucked into the 1,603-page year-end spending bill Congress released Tuesday night were a pair of provisions that affect proponents of cannabis reform. Together they form a metaphor for the politics of legal cannabis—an issue that made major bipartisan strides this year, but whose progress is hampered by a tangle of local, state and federal statutes that have sown confusion and produced contradictory justice.

First the good news for reformers: the proposed budget would prohibit law enforcement officials from using federal funds to prosecute patients or legal dispensaries in the 32 states, plus the District of Columbia, that passed some form of medical-marijuana legalization. The provision was crafted by a bipartisan group of representatives and passed the Republican-controlled House in May for the first time in seven tries. If passed into law, it would mark a milestone for the movement, restricting raids against dispensaries and inoculating patients from being punished for an activity that is legal where they live but in violation of federal law.

“The enactment of this legislation will mark the first time in decades that the federal government has curtailed its oppressive prohibition of marijuana, and has instead taken an approach to respect the many states that have permitted the use of medical marijuana to some degree,” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher said in a statement to TIME. The California Republican’s work on the issue reflects the strange coalition that has sprung up to support cannabis reform as the GOP’s libertarian wing gains steam and voters’ views evolve.

At the same time, the House chose to overrule Washington, D.C., on the issue. Last month voters in the District chose to liberalize its marijuana laws, passing an initiative that legalized the possession, consumption and cultivation of recreational marijuana. The move, which was supported by about 70% of the capital’s voters, paved the way for D.C. to follow in the footsteps of Colorado and Washington State by establishing a tax-and-regulatory structure for cannabis sales in 2015.


SC medical marijuana panel to meet

CHARLESTON, S.C. – A joint legislative panel looking at the medical uses of marijuana in South Carolina is holding a public meeting in Charleston.

The meeting at the Medical University of South Carolina on Thursday is the first of three the panel is holding around the state to gather information on medical uses of the illegal substance.

Lawmakers this year approved a bill allowing patients with severe epilepsy to be treated with oil derived from marijuana with a doctor’s approval.

The study committee is gathering information that members say will help lawmakers refine the state’s marijuana and hemp laws.

The panel is planning two meetings around the state, in Greenville next month and in Florence in December.

South Carolina discussing legalizing cannabis

Columbia, SC (WLTX) – Legalizing medical marijuana in South Carolina is being discussed at the statehouse Wednesday.

The discussion comes after the General Assembly last session passed a bill legalizing industrial hemp, which also has THC, the substances that makes marijuana illegal.

“We see fit, that albeit a little bit different, should ride together,” said Clint Leach with the South Carolina Department of Agriculture. “South Carolina is very unique in the agricultural history we have. It’s different from other states so it’s very important for us to look at the advantages and disadvantages that South Carolina brings to the table before we implement any law.”

Lawmakers passed a bill legalizing industrial hemp last session and now have gathered a study committee to see if they should do the same with medical marijuana.

Industrial hemp is used by the textile industry to make products like clothing to soap.

Medical marijuana is different because it would be consumed by people.

“We have a role in the industrial hemp legislation and what we want to do with the other industries is figure out how we move this industry forward looking at what other states have done wether it be Colorado, or Kentucky, or Washington,” Leach said.

Wednesday, lawmakers expect to hear about a law dealing with marijuana that’s already on the books.

“The Marijuana and Controlled Substances Stamp Tax Act was passed in 1993,” said Bonnie Swingle with the South Carolina Department of Revenue.

Without a legal marijuana industry, the tax hasn’t earned the state very much. Since 1993, DOR has collected a little over $160,000 from the tax.

“(It) will help them determine wether they want to legalize it in the future, how much tax revenue they may get out of that,” Swingle said.

SOUTH CAROLINA – Nikki Haley Signs Medical Marijuana Bill Into Law

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) signed the Medical Cannabis Therapeutic Treatment Research Act into law Monday, clearing the way for children with severe epilepsy to use cannabidiol oil (CBD), a non-psychoactive derivative of cannabis, to help reduce their seizures if recommended by a licensed physician.

The bill, which passed the Senate unanimously and cleared the House with a 92-5 vote, will also designate a new clinical trial at the Medical University of South Carolina dedicated to evaluating the effectiveness of CBD in controlling epileptic seizures.

Seven other states — Alabama, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin — have also implemented similar CBD-only medical marijuana proposals in the past four months.

In Iowa, Gov. Terry Branstad (R) initially opposed similar legislation but signed the bill into law Friday under pressure from parents seeking to ease their epileptic children’s seizures.

“This bill received tremendous support and truly shows the power of people talking to their legislators and to their governor about important issues to them, to their families and to their children,” Branstad said before signing the bill at a statehouse rotunda ceremony.

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South Carolina here is your opportunity !

COLUMBIA — The South Carolina Democratic primary ballot in June will ask voters whether they support legalizing medical marijuana to treat severe illnesses.

House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford said Wednesday he wanted it on the ballot so the Legislature’s Republican leaders could see what voters think of the issue.

He has proposed legislation allowing patients certified by a doctor as suffering a debilitating illness to use marijuana. Last week, the House rejected his effort to attach it to a bill allowing patients with severe epilepsy to legally possess nonpsychoactive cannabidiol, known as CBD oil, which is derived from marijuana.

That limited bill, sponsored by Republicans, passed the chamber 90-24, a week after the Senate passed a similar – but even more restrictive – version.

While the House defeated Rutherford’s amendment, legislators of both parties encouraged him to re-introduce his measure next year. Patients it would allow to use marijuana include those suffering from cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and chronic pain.

“I don’t know how we can continue to deprive families of what many consider miracle medicine,” said Rutherford, D-Columbia. Let’s “put patients in the hands of a doctor, not the Legislature.”

The advisory question on medical marijuana is among five asked on the Republican and Democratic ballots June 10. Two others on the Democratic ballot deal with gambling.

Republican voters will be asked about abortion and eliminating the state income tax. The state Election Commission gave the parties until noon Wednesday to submit their questions.

The agency charged the state GOP Party $2,500 and the Democratic party a $3,500 fee for adding the questions to their ballots, said agency spokesman Chris Whitmire.

How voters respond to primary questions do not necessarily translate to legislative action. But they are traditionally a way to get voters to the polls.

South Carolina lawmakers file bills aimed at easing medical marijuana restrictions

By Michael Smith

South Carolina’s prohibition of marijuana and marijuana-related products for medial purposes could go up in smoke if recently filed bills are signed into law.

Sen. Luke Rankin, R-Myrtle Beach, and Ray Cleary, R-Murrells Inlet are among 12 senators co-sponsoring Senate Bill 1035, which if signed into law would legalize clinical trials of cannabidiol oil, a marijuana extract, for medical uses.

Called the Medical Cannabis Therapeutic Treatment Act, the bill calls for the creation of a research program through the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).

Patients would become eligible to participate through the program. The purpose, according to the act, is to “determine who and under what circumstances medical cannabis can be administered to a patient.”

A companion bill, House Bill 4803, passed three readings on April 3 before it was sent to the Senate, where it was referred to the Committee on Medical Affairs.

Cleary, chair of the Senate medical affairs subcommittee, said he hadn’t seen H. 4803 yet, but noted S. 1035 is different from other measures attempting to legalize medical marijuana because it’s restricted to cannabidiol.

“The oil situation that we’re talking about doesn’t have any of the psychotropic aspects of [marijuana],” he said. “It doesn’t make you want to eat snack food. It’s more of a medicinal extract.”

The Rankin-Cleary bill is one of several attempts growing in the state legislature to partially legalize marijuana in South Carolina.

Democratic voters will be faced with an advisory referendum question in the June primaries asking them for their position on medical marijuana.

“Should medical marijuana be legalized for use in cases of severe, chronic illnesses when documented by a physician?” the question reads.

House Bills 4872 and 4879 create the South Carolina Medical Marijuana Act, which authorizes the medical use of marijuana for patients suffering from “chronicle or debilitating” conditions, such as severe pain, severe nausea, seizures and other ailments.

Both bills contain nearly identical wording and were given first reading and referred to the House Judiciary Committee on March 6.

In December, Senators Tom Davis, Kevin Bryant and Lee Bright prefiled S. 839, a measure that makes it legal to grow industrial hemp in South Carolina.