Updated on June 15, 2020. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
* Please note: South Carolina is still pending legislative vote, however, the state has outlined several key factors for the medical marijuana program in South Carolina but it has not been legally enacted as of this time.
The 2017 legislative session in South Carolina ended without a vote on the pending medical marijuana bills. South Carolina Bill 3521, the Compassionate Care Act, gained supporters in the legislature but did not come up for a vote. There is optimism that the beginning of the 2018 session could see progress on this legislation to legalize the medical use of marijuana.
An attempt to legalize medical marijuana in South Carolina failed in the South Carolina House of Representatives on Wednesday, May 22nd despite South Carolina State law already allowing it. Representative Todd Rutherford, a Democrat out of Columbia, tried to amend a bill dealing with controlled substances to add marijuana to the list of drugs that doctors could recommend. Todd Rutherford said his plan was to license farmers in the state to grow marijuana and then sell it to patients, like other prescription drugs, eliminating that cost to the state. However, even though the bill failed, there was a bill that was passed in 1980 known as Section 44-53-650.
Under South Carolina law, Section 44-53-650 is a bill that was passed which allows the director to obtain and distribute marijuana. The director shall obtain marijuana through whatever means he deems most appropriate consistent with federal law. The director shall cause such analyzed marijuana to be transferred to various locations throughout the State that provide adequate security as set forth in federal and state regulations for the purpose of distributing such marijuana to the certified patient in such manner as is consistent with federal law. The patient shall not be required to pay for such marijuana but the director may charge for ancillary medical services provided by the department to compensate the department for the cost, if any, of securing such marijuana and providing it to the patient.
The term “director” refers to the director of the state Department of Health and Environmental Control. The D.H.E.C. has never obtained and distributed marijuana, though, for two reasons: Firstly, the clause in the state law that says “consistent with federal law” creates confusion. If federal law classifies marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance, which would make distribution of it a federal offense and that would be highly illegal. Therefore, it is already legal but that is a mere technicality and does not provide any exemption from criminal prosecution whatsoever.
The patient must have a seriously debilitating condition; a condition which shall be specified in the patient’s healthcare record and can be easily reviewed by a cannabis-recommending physician within a respective area. The Compassionate Care Act, when passed, will provide treatment guidelines by specifying a list of conditions for which medical marijuana can be used.
The patient is under a licensed medical practitioner’s care for the previously determined serious condition; and in the practitioner’s professional opinion, the patient is likely to receive therapeutic or palliative benefit from the primary or adjunctive treatment with medical use of cannabis for the serious condition.