NEWBERRY COUNTY — The S.C. House of Representatives is currently in active discussion about passing a medical marijuana bill and an industrial hemp bill.
The medical marijuana bill would authorize registered patients to use marijuana for medical purposes as recommended by their physicians.
Rep. Rick Martin said this bill, which has been proposed for a while, would be for medical use only.
“It would be for severe cancer patients, people with seizures, severe cases of PTSD. Study after study, has shown, and I did not know this until recently, that marijuana actually suppresses cancer cells in the body, and makes the body receptive to treatment, like chemotherapy, and it actually cuts the affects,” Martin said. “A lot of the research has shown that cannabinoid receptors are actually built into the body, and it actually takes on the marijuana and suppresses the cancer cells, and our own immune system starts destroying the cancer.”
When the bill was first proposed, Martin was not on board with it. He said that legalizing marijuana for medical use would lead to recreational use. However, he said he is now on board with the bill because of the regulations.
“So many regulations are being put in place. You will not get a prescription from your doctor, you will get a recommendation, and then it will be checked into very rigorously to make sure you have what the doctor says you have,” Martin said. “It will go through the state. You will not be able to go through a local drug store. You will literally have to go through a state dispensary hat will be regulated thoroughly.”
Patients will go to their doctor, who will make a recommendation, then go through another process where the state (most likely DHEC) will confirm the doctor’s recommendation. They will then direct the patient to a dispensary, which will also most likely be managed by DHEC.
“Most likely right now, it is going to be in Columbia, and patients will go to Columbia to get it filled,” Martin said. “As of right now, baby steps, we are going to follow very closely to make sure it works.”
Martin told a story of a young man in Newberry County that this bill will help. He said while he was campaigning he met this young man’s mother, who told Martin that her son was having 25 seizures every day.
“He has virtually no quality of life. He more or less cannot function and never knows when a seizure is going to come up. They have been going to another state and getting the marijuana and when the young man smokes it, it takes literally a week, from when he smoked it to wear off, it knocks it down to where he has no seizures at all or two seizures a day. He can function,” Martin said.
If the bill is passed in the House, the bill will make its way to the Senate.
“If it really does benefit the patients, and I have heard testimony where a lot of them say it does, I could go for it, but not in the current legislation. Until they amend it for more controls on it,” Sen. Ronnie Cromer said. “The problem is, we approved the cannabinol, and now after doing that, and it has helped a lot of people, I have had people say ‘my son has had seizures six or seven times a day, now they are down to one a week,’ but do they need the stuff you smoke? It is the same active ingredient in the capsule that you are taking by the mouth. You just do not get the high from it.”
The Industrial Hemp Bill would allow for some farmers to grow hemp, but it would be regulated. Martin said he tells people you have a tomato and a peach, both are classified as fruits and are in the same family, but they are totally different things.
He added the levels of THC in hemp is low, and hemp can be made into many different materials.
“BMW, their Series Five, I did not know this, makes the bumpers and the door panels out of hemp. You would have to smoke a whole field of hemp to get any affect whatsoever,” he said. “What I have been told, if you have a four acre field, you would have to smoke every hemp plant within about an hour to get the same affect of smoking one marijuana joint.”
Martin said there are more than 50,000 uses for hemp, and hemp actually cleans the soil. Some uses for hemp include textiles, paper, industrial textiles, building materials, industrial products, foods and body care.
If the bill passes, Martin said it will be heavily regulated, beginning with a permitting process and only so many farmers will be allowed to grow the crop. He said there will be so many in the Upstate, Midlands and Lowcountry, and this will be done to see what soil will grow the hemp best.
“It is a very high paying crop. Farmers will have to go through the Agriculture Commission to apply for permits to be able to grow it,” Martin said.
The permit will dictate how much is grown. Farmers will also have to already be in the agriculture industry.
“It will also make sure you have the property to where you can do it, and equipment to cultivate it, but it will be checked very rigorously,” Martin said. “This is a cash crop. The taxes coming off of it. It is hundreds of millions of dollars coming off of this for all the industrial use for it.”
Cromer said he is fine with this bill, and he added he did not realize until recently that there were so many uses for hemp.
With the possibility of these two bills being passed, could this mean that recreational marijuana is on its way to being legalized in South Carolina?
“We are a very conservative state, in my view, and what I hear on the floor and other senators I speak to, it will probably 25-30 years down the road before it is remotely considered for recreational use in this state,” Martin said.
Reach Andrew Wigger at 803-276-0625 ext. 1867 or on Twitter @ TheNBOnews.