Con­ser­va­tives in S.C. push med­i­cal pot bill

Med­i­cal mar­i­juana ef­forts slowly tak­ing root in the South.

Austin American-Statesman - - SAN MARCOS SECURITY BREACH - By Seanna Adcox

South Carolina Rep. Eric Bed­ing­field once shunned all mar­i­juana use, but when his el­dest son’s six-year strug­gle with opi­oid ad­dic­tion ended with his over­dose a year ago, the con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­can co-spon­sored med­i­cal cannabis leg­is­la­tion.

“My mind­set has changed from some­body who looked down on it as a neg­a­tive sub­stance to say­ing, ‘This has ben­e­fits,’ ” Bed­ing­field said re­cently.

The 50-year-old tee­to­taler be­lieves mar­i­juana may ef­fec­tively wean ad­dicts from an opi­oid de­pen­dence. Ul­ti­mately, the Ma­rine vet­eran hopes med­i­cal mar­i­juana can be an al­ter­na­tive to peo­ple be­ing pre­scribed OxyCon­tin or other opi­oid painkillers to be­gin with, help­ing curb an epi­demic he’s seen de­stroy fam­i­lies of all eco­nomic lev­els.

Two decades af­ter California be­came the first state to le­gal­ize med­i­cal mar­i­juana, ef­forts to let pa­tients legally ac­cess pot are slowly tak­ing root in the South.

While 28 states al­low com­pre­hen­sive med­i­cal mar­i­juana pro­grams, only two of those are in the South. Arkansas and Florida vot­ers ap­proved theirs through the bal­lot last Novem­ber. Nei­ther is in place yet.

This year’s re­newed push in South Carolina is bol­stered by some of the state’s most con­ser­va­tive leg­is­la­tors, such as Bed­ing­field, whose opin­ions have shifted due to per­sonal losses or the plead­ings of par­ents and pas­tors in their dis­tricts.

Three years ago, state law­mak­ers passed a very nar­row law al­low­ing pa­tients with se­vere epilepsy, or their care­givers, to legally pos­sess cannabid­iol, or CBD, a non-psy­choac­tive oil de­rived from mar­i­juana. Bed­ing­field voted against that idea.

Bill Davis, a Chris­tian au­thor who leads a Bi­ble study for peo­ple fight­ing drug ad­dic­tion, said he was bedrid­den be­fore try­ing mar­i­juana. Di­ag­nosed two years ago with id­io­pathic pul­monary fi­bro­sis, a lung dis­ease with no cure, he was put on an ex­per­i­men­tal drug with “hor­ri­ble side ef­fects.”

“I had to de­cide whether I wanted to die of lung dis­ease or kid­ney or liver fail­ure,” Davis said.

Then he started va­p­ing mar­i­juana, which he says al­lows him to con­trol the amount of CBD and THC he re­ceives.

“I’m pray­ing this state will al­low me to be treated legally for me to live” us­ing “a plant that God made,” he said.

Repub­li­can Rep. Jonathon Hill said he signed onto the bill af­ter hear­ing Davis’ story over din­ner at his home.

“He is liv­ing, walk­ing proof that there can be some very real ben­e­fits,” he said.

A bill al­low­ing peo­ple with a de­bil­i­tat­ing med­i­cal con­di­tion, or their adult care­givers, to legally pos­sess 2 ounces of mar­i­juana ad­vanced last month to the House’s full med­i­cal com­mit­tee.

Its Repub­li­can back­ers tout the bill’s “seed-to-sale track­ing” as guard­ing against recre­ational use. A Se­nate sub­com­mit­tee is con­sid­er­ing an iden­ti­cal bill.

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