Originally published in the February 2017 issue of Fete Magazine.
I never considered myself political. I usually shied away from such talk and kept my opinions to myself. Admittedly, I knew little about the political process other than the basics of voting and, thanks to ‘Schoolhouse Rock’ a little about how a bill becomes a law.
All that changed in 2014 when I discovered that cannabis controlled my seizures. And, as the phrase goes, “It was on like Donkey Kong.” I literally threw myself into the world of politics and very quickly discovered it to be rife with pubescent drama. There were over one dozen cannabis-related bills introduced during this past two-year session. One of the bills, S672, gained heavy momentum and was receiving favorable reports. And then the Gas Bill exploded. With sentimental behavior rivaling a sitcom drama written by Aaron Spelling, the legislature debated the gas bill with vicious intensity. We watched as the aggrieved Senators allowed the aftermath to spill into the debate of the medical cannabis bill. It failed to pass out of the Medical Affairs Committee.
With high hopes, patients across South Carolina waited for the 2017-18 session to begin. We were delivered a bombshell in late November: Nikki Haley had been nominated for a UN position. What does this have to do with cannabis legislation in South Carolina, you ask? Everything. If you want to have power in the state, you become a senator. If you want to have power in the senate, you become President Pro Tempore. The state constitution establishes that the President Pro-Tem is to fill the vacancy of lieutenant governor. Haley resigns and up bumps McMaster. Constitutionally, that would mean the next play would be Hugh Leatherman sliding into position as our Lt. Governor. But why would Leatherman want such a powerless position? And how would he continue to write contracts from the state benefitting his company, Florence Concrete, if he was ‘just’ the Lt. Governor? The well-coffered senate quickly started giving free rides on the carousel. Leatherman resigned his position. Kevin Bryant was elected to take his place, and 20 minutes later, was sworn in as Lt. Governor. To end the most recent episode of “As the World Turns”, Leatherman was then re-elected as President Pro Tempore of the Senate. Whew. I’m dizzy.
Obviously, this was not done without emotional impact. Alliances were broken and new ones were formed. Those that survived were strained. So, now we enter the new legislative session with as much drama as when we left.
Since the first day of session on the 10th of January, five bills regarding cannabis have been introduced: one senate bill and four house bills. Senate bill 212 (also known as the Compassionate Care Act) would establish a medical cannabis program in South Carolina. It has a companion bill that has been introduced in the house, HB 3521. The other bills that have been introduced to the House are The Put Patients First Act (H3128 which would also establish a medical cannabis program but would allow for home grow) sponsored by Todd Rutherford who is also sponsoring H3162 which would allow honorably discharged veterans the ability to possess up to 28 grams of cannabis with a VA doctor recommendation. Closing out the list of cannabis related legislation is House bill 3559 which would establish an industrial hemp industry in South Carolina.
That is a whole heck of a lot of cannabis related legislation in just a few weeks. I certainly hope the “good ol’ boys” can do what the law allows.