COLUMBIA, S.C. (Dec. 27, 2016) – Two South Carolina House bills slated for introduction in 2017 would legalize medical marijuana for qualifying patients in the state, effectively nullifying the unconstitutional federal prohibition on the same.
Pre-filed by Rep. Todd Rutherford (D-Columbia), House Bill 3128 (H.3128) would allow qualifying medical patients the ability to possess “up to two ounces of a usable form of marijuana” as well as grow “up to six marijuana plants, with three or fewer being mature, flowering plants that are producing a usable form of marijuana” without being persecuted by state-level officials.
Patients would be eligible to qualify for medical marijuana if they suffer from one of the following ailments listed in H.3128:
(a) cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, and acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or treatment for these conditions;
(b) a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition, or treatment of that disease or medical condition, that results in one or more of the following symptoms, and for which, in the professional opinion of that patient’s physician, the use of medical marijuana would alleviate one or more of the symptoms:
(ii) severe pain;
(iii) severe nausea;
(iv) seizures, including those that are characteristic of epilepsy; or
(v) persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis; and
(c) another disease or medical condition, or treatment of that disease or medical condition, determined by the department to be a debilitating medical condition pursuant to department regulation or department approval of a petition submitted by a patient or a patient’s physician.
Rep. Rutherford also pre-filed a second bill – House Bill 3162 (H.3162) – to provide medical marijuana for certain military veterans. The bill would allow military veterans who were discharged in honorable fashion and later diagnosed with PTSD “to possess twenty-eight grams or one ounce or less of marijuana or ten grams or less of hashish.”
“The time has come to put aside archaic misconceptions of medical marijuana and put patients first,” said Rep. Rutherford said in a WLTX report. “I hear devastating stories every single day from people who are battling epilepsy or suffering from a brain tumor who desperately need medical marijuana to treat the debilitating symptoms.”
Despite the federal prohibition on marijuana, measures such as H.3128 and H.3162 remain perfectly constitutional, and the feds can do little if anything to stop them in practice.
The federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970 prohibits all of this behavior. Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate marijuana within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.
Legalization of medical marijuana in South Carolina would remove a layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition will remain on the books.
FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By curtailing state prohibition, South Carolina sweeps away much of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.
Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly annual budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution either. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.
A GROWING MOVEMENT
South Carolina could join a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition, and nullifying it in practice. Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska have already legalized recreational cannabis with California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts set to join them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization were passed in those states earlier this month.
With more than two-dozen states allowing cannabis for medical use as well, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition any more.
“The lesson here is pretty straight forward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,” Tenth Amendment Center founder and executive director Michael Boldin said.
H.3128 and H.3162 will need to be formally introduced and pass their committee assignments before the bills can be considered by the full House. Stay in touch with our Tenther Blog and our Tracking and Action Center for the latest updates.