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Medical Cannabis Bill Likely Dead in South Carolina Legislature

On Wednesday, a state legislator failed to pass a bill that would allow medical cannabis to be legalized in South Carolina. This has lowered its prospects for this year.

The State newspaper of Columbia, South Carolina reports that “House lawmakers on Wednesday voted 59-55 against an appeal proposed by House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, to keep the bill alive,” which followed a request from a Republican member of the state House that “the proposal be ruled unconstitutional since it creates a new tax, arguing that revenue-raising bills can only originate in the lower chamber.”

As the newspaper noted, the move “likely [ends] any hope of passage this year.”

After the bill’s February approval by the state Senate, it is disappointing that the bill has been disapproved. It was a priority for members of this chamber that medical cannabis be considered a key issue at the beginning of the legislative session.

The bill’s sponsor, GOP state Sen. Tom Davis, has been pushing a medical cannabis bill since 2015.

“If you pound at the door long enough. You must make your point. If the public is asking for something, the state Senate owes a debate,” Davis told The Post and CourierIt was January “The people of South Carolina deserve to know where their elected officials stand on this issue.”

Davis’s effort to get medical cannabis legalized in South Carolina has been marked by incremental progress.

Per The Post and Courier, the Senate Medical Affairs Committee brought Davis’s bill to the floor in 2018, but “opposition blocked a floor debate from ever happening.” The newspaper said that the “2021 session closed last May with GOP leadership promising Davis he’d get a vote this year.”

The bill (known as the SC Compassionate Care Act) was passed in February and approved by the state Senate. It received a 28-15 vote.

“Even those that were opposed to the bill, I mean, they could’ve just been opposed. They could’ve ranted against it, they could’ve tried to delay things. They didn’t. Although they expressed concerns, the group did not do anything but dig in to improve the bill. And so, what you saw over the last three weeks is what’s supposed to happen in a representative democracy,” Davis said at the time, as quoted by local television station WCSC.

The dream was ended on Wednesday at the South Carolina House. According to The State, Davis “and other Senate leaders stood speechless in the House chamber Wednesday as they watched a last-ditch effort to save the bill fail,” with the Republican leader in the Senate saying that the procedural move could “have significant consequences on the relationship between the House and Senate.”

“We suffered a setback procedurally in the House today,” Davis said, as quoted by The State. “I can’t cry about it. I can’t pout about it. I can’t come back and lash out and try to hurt other people’s bills. That’s not productive. I just need to find out a way to get this thing on the merits up or down in the House and that’s what I’m going to be working on.”

Davis is one of the few advocates who might run out of ideas. The State reported that it is not clear “whether State House leaders would be willing to put the issue on the sine die resolution, an agreement between the chambers that outlines what they can debate after the session adjourns.”

“I need to figure out if there’s another vehicle. We still have four days left in the session, lots of bills on the calendar, some involving pharmacies and medical affairs, and things of that nature,” Davis said, as quoted by The State. “And so I think there’s an opportunity and I’ll explore what they are.”