The South Carolina Democratic Party plans to ask its voters in June if they wish to legalize medical marijuana in the state, House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia, said Wednesday.
The nonbinding referendum would be included on the Democratic Party ballot when voters decide which candidates to nominate for November’s general election.
Rutherford said the referendum would let lawmakers know how South Carolinians feel on the issue. “We don’t need to have patients denigrate themselves and lie there writhing in pain as we sit in this body and tell them a substance that God provides will be withheld from them.”
Rutherford was joined Wednesday by several South Carolinians who live with epilepsy, scoliosis, and other illnesses to call for the legalization of medical marijuana.
Among them was Gaffney native Steva Kiser. Kiser’s toddler grandson Ezra Podvin suffers from a disorder that causes daily seizures.
“I remember distinctly the first time I saw him have a grand mal seizure. He was one week old,” she said. “It was a horrific experience and it was only the beginning of a living nightmare for him.”
Kiser said no medication was able to help Ezra. She said her daughter Marisa traveled throughout the Southeast trying to find treatment for him. They eventually moved to Colorado, where medical cannabis dispensaries sell marijuana extracts that are used to treat epileptic seizures.
“Traditional medication and treatments for seizures failed Ezra and they are failing hundreds of kids like him,” she said. “It’s time that we learn the truth and dispel the misconceptions about the cannabis plant.”
South Carolina legislators are very close to passing a bill that would allow epilepsy patients to take the cannabis extract CBD during clinical trials. CBD does not contain the chemical that causes the sensation of being “high.” But the proposal would not allow patients to smoke marijuana, which many say helps relieve their pain.
State Rep. Eddie Tallon, R-Spartanburg, is a former State Law Enforcement Division officer who opposed the CBD bill. He said he was concerned that the extract is being manufactured outside of federal drug regulations. “They have no quality control on this oil out there (in Colorado),” he said shortly before voting against the bill last week.
Kiser said her own family’s experiences with CBD have had no side effects.
“When I prayed for a miracle, I didn’t expect God to deliver marijuana,” she said.
Rutherford and other Columbia Democrats has sponsored a bill that would legalize medical marijuana for patients with a debilitating illness. The bill is extremely unlikely to pass so late in the session, as a critical deadline for it to pass the House is only three weeks away and no hearing is scheduled at this time.