Round 2: SC Senate debates medical marijuana bill after House blew up ex-proposal in smoke
The South Carolina Senate started debate over Sen. Tom Davis' medical marijuana bill on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024. Senators ended the week without taking a vote.
The South Carolina Senate on Thursday adjourned for the week without taking a vote on legislation to legalize certain forms of marijuana for medical purposes.
Senators will return for session at noon Tuesday, with the bill's lead sponsor, Sen. Tom Davis, holding the floor.
Supporters of the bill, S. 423, want South Carolina to become the 39th state to legalize the practice.
On Thursday, state Sen. Greg Hembree, who opposes the bill, said the legislation would be taking the unprecedented step of putting itself in the shoes of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
"We're making a judgement about what medicines are safe, in what amounts and for what diseases for our citizens," the Horry Republican said. "The people that have hired us to protect them and to look out for them."
The bill's backers say the state should enact a legal means, where people who need cannabis for medical use can access it safely.
"It is incumbent upon us to provide a means whereby people can access that medicine (cannabis) safely, under a doctor’s care with a pharmacist dispensing it, with knowledge that it is safe," Davis, R-Beaufort, said. "It is our job to do that."
This is the second time Davis' proposal has made it to the Senate floor.
Two years ago, after years of refining his proposal to assuage the concerns of Republican colleagues and law enforcement, a similar version of the bill passed the Senate with bipartisan support in a 28-15 vote.
But, in a move that surprised senators, the House voted to kill the proposal without any debate or official vote on the measure.
Instead, the lower chamber voted 59-55 to back a procedural ruling, arguing that the bill was unconstitutional because it created a new tax and House lawmakers said only revenue-raising legislation could start in the House.
“We suffered a setback procedurally in the House today,” Davis told reporters in 2022 after a vote to appeal the House ruling failed. “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 has since tweaked the legislation to avoid the same outcome for his bill.
The new version of Davis' proposal strips out the fee on marijuana sales for medical purposes to pay for new regulations that was included in his original proposal. Davis said the bill also makes other changes, though minor — an argument some of his colleagues, like Hembree, disagree with.