Although the legislative grind in South Carolina has shown very little interest in the legalization of marijuana, there is a desire, among the taxpayers, to bring the herb out of the underground for medical purposes.
Earlier this week, voters in the Democratic primary tendered their support for a non-binding measure asking “Do you support passing a state law allowing doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to patients? An impressive 82 percent of the voters responded favorably, while less than 20 percent were opposed, according to the Post and Courier.
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Although the outcome of this vote does not change the law, nor does it require lawmakers to take any action, it does send a clear message to legislative channels that medical marijuana is something the majority of the citizens can get onboard with.
So far, this opinion has not been represented in the State Capitol, where lawmakers have managed to introduce legislation designed to put a medical marijuana program on the books but failed to take anything comprehensive to the next level. All of the proposals aimed at allowing patients to use marijuana for therapeutic purposes were completely disregarded this year by the South Carolina House and Senate. This means it is a dead scene for 2018.
But the latest ballot question could be the pressure lawmakers need to take medical marijuana seriously next year. Advocates believe the ballot question was a necessary move to put them in good standings for this reform next.
“It will show the legislators at the State House that their constituents support this issue and they should vote for it,” Janel Ralph of Conway, executive director of the Compassionate South Carolina patient advocacy group, told The State prior to the vote.
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While taking the “temperature of the electorate,” as it was explained by former U.S. Attorney General of South Carolina Bill Nettles, turned out a positive result for medical marijuana, there was some concern that the numbers would be close. A poll published earlier this year showed only 53 percent of South Carolina was in favor of medical marijuana, while 35 percent is opposed.
Still, the latest figures from this week’s ballot measure represents immense support on this issue. A similar ballot measure was put to the voters in Illinois earlier this year, tuning up a similar outcome with respect to full legalization. Sixty-three percent of the voters responded “yes” when asked in a referendum, “Shall the State of Illinois legalize the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing, and sale of marijuana and marijuana products for recreational use by adults 21 and older subject to state regulation, taxation and local ordinance?”
It remains to be seen what lawmakers plan to do with the voice of the people.