The South Carolina General Assembly (SCGA) is back at work and medical cannabis is literally already on the agenda.

(Sorry, North Carolina citizens: There are no cannabis reform bills filed in the N.C. General Assembly at this time, though that will soon change.)

For Thurs., Jan. 10, the SCGA Senate Medical Affairs Committee has placed Senate Bill 169 on its agenda.

That bill — actually a concurrent resolution between both houses of government — seeks to urge “Congress to take immediate and additional steps to promote and actively pursue scientific research … into the potential use of cannabis to treat other medical conditions and illnesses by removing the federal statutory and regulatory barriers that prevent these scientific endeavors.”

In other words, should this resolution pass the state of South Carolina will officially push the federal government to deschedule cannabis, or at least reschedule it.

But don’t hold your breath.

Gov. Henry McMaster, who was sworn into office for his first elected term on Wednesday — he was appointed when Gov. Nikki Haley was appointed U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in 2017 — is not in favor of cannabis reform in his state, as he made clear in the last gubernatorial debate of the 2018 election.

[Read: We fact checked that debate and pointed out that McMaster is seemingly unaware of why cannabis is prohibited in the first place.]

Here’s a quote from McMaster’s last debate: “Now, when law enforcement is satisfied that it can be controlled, then that’s a different story. But until that time, and until medical science catches up with it, we would be entering very dangerous territory.”

Click here to find out who your South Carolina legislators are and how to contact them.

Update

S.C. Cannabis Bills – 2019

S 159 - Amend trafficking penalties

Senate Bill 159 was filed by Sen. Karl B. Allen (D-Dist. 7, Greenville).

This bill seeks to amend marijuana trafficking penalties. Should it become law, a first offense "of at least ten pounds but less than one hundred pounds" of high-THC cannabis (i.e. not federally legal hemp) could still lead to a one- to 10-year prison sentence, but those convicted could serve up to one year of house arrest in the comfort of an electric ankle monitor in their home versus behind bars.

Bill status:

Currently referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee

This information was last updated by Carolina Cannabis News on Jan. 18, 2019.

S 169 - Resolution for federal descheduling/ research

Senate Bill 169 was filed by Sen. Greg Hembree (R-Dist. 28, Dillon and Horry).

This bill -- a concurrent resolution between the state Senate and House -- seeks to urge the U.S. Congress to deschedule cannabis in the name of medical research.

Bill status:

On Jan. 10, 2019, this bill was on agenda for the Senate Committee on Medical Affairs.

On Jan. 17, 2019, the bill received a favorable report in the Senate Committee on Medical Affairs.

The bill is now expected to be presented to the full South Carolina Senate, though a date is not yet known.

This information was last updated by Carolina Cannabis News on Jan. 18, 2019.

S 366 Compassionate Care Act (Senate Version)

Senate Bill 366 was filed on Jan. 15, 2019, by Sen. Tom Davis (R-Dist. 46, ), Sen. Hutto (), Sen. McLeod (), and Sen. Kimpson.

This bill seeks to legalize medical cannabis for patients with certain medical conditions. It does not allow for the smoking of cannabis as a concession to state law enforcement. This bill has been in the works for several years and is the most well-known, and, frankly, most likely to succeed of all of the cannabis reform bills in the S.C. General Assembly this legislative session. Though Gov. Henry McMaster has repeatedly said he will not sign into law a marijuana bill, at a press conference held on Jan. 15, Sen. Davis assured constituents and members of the media that he believes the governor will sign the bill. Sen. Davis calls this the "most conservative" cannabis bill in the country. Rep. Rutherford concurred during an interview with Carolina Cannabis News.

This bill also includes language concerning the hemp industry.

[WATCH: The press conference held on the day the bill was filed and other videos from that day on our Facebook Page's video portal.]

Bill status

On Jan. 15, the bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Medical Affairs.

Read about the Compassionate Care Act here:

This information was last updated by Carolina Cannabis News on Jan. 18, 2019.

S 384 Repeal S.C. Industrial Hemp Bill

Senate Bill 384 was filed by Sen. Paul Campbell (R-Dist. 44, Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester Counties), Sen. Davis and Sen. Kent M. Williams (D-Dist. 30, Dillon, Florence, Horry, Marion and Marlboro Counties).

This bill seeks to repeal the state's industrial hemp bill in light of the passage of the 2018 farm bill. 

Bill Status

The bill was filed on Jan. 17, 2019, and was referred to the Senate Committee on Agricultural and Natural Resources.

This information was last updated by Carolina Cannabis News on Jan. 18, 2019.

H 3081 - Medical Use of Marijuana Act

House Bill 3081 was filed by Reps. Rosalyn D. Henderson-Myers (D-31, Spartanburg) and Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-66, Orangeburg).

This bill seeks to allow medical marijuana patients to use cannabis, doctors to prescribe it and caregivers to act on behalf of medical patients. If passed, the bill would require the Dept. of Health and Environmental Control to maintain a confidential list of registered medical cannabis patients. It would also protect doctors and caregivers from liability and professional discipline for prescribing or assisting medical cannabis users. The legislation would allow for the registration of cannabis companies as well; those companies would be required to perform laboratory testing on their products. The bill would also establish an Emergency Medical Marijuana Access Program.

Bill status:

Currently referred to the House Committee on Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs.

On Jan. 16, Rep. Wendy C. Brawley (D-Dist. 70, Richland & Sumter Counties) and Rep. Peter McCoy (R-Dist. 115, Charleston County) were added to the bill as cosponsors.

This information was last updated by Carolina Cannabis News on Jan. 18, 2019.

H 3226 - Property Seizures

House Bill 3226 was filed by Rep. J. Todd Rutherford (D-74, Richland).

This bill aims to alter current law regarding property and money seized during arrests when charges have not been filed within 30 days. The bill would also prohibit the seizing authority from forcing people to sign releases absolving them from civil liability relating to an unlawful seizure. The bill, should it become law, would also change how court proceedings are handled for property seizures if the value of the property does not exceed $7,500.  It could also change how seized property is returned to "innocent owners."

Bill status:

Currently referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

On Jan. 15, Rep. Jonathan D. Hill (R-Dist. 8, Anderson County) was added to the bill as a cosponsor.

This information was last updated by Carolina Cannabis News on Jan. 18, 2019.

H 3269 - Amend trafficking penalties

House Bill 3269 was filed by Rep. Marvin R. Pendarvis (D-Dist. 113, Charleston and Dorchester).

This bill is similar to Senate Bill 159. It would allow for those caught with between 10 lbs and 100 lbs of cannabis to serve a one-year term of house arrest, though prison terms for such offenses carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. In this case, one of those years could be served under house arrest.

Bill status:

Currently referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

This information was last updated by Carolina Cannabis News on Jan. 18, 2019.

H 3272 - Put Patients First Act

House Bill 3272 was filed by Reps. Rutherford and Cobb-Hunter.

This bill is similar to H 3081, the Medical Use of Marijuana Act, though it would require medical patients to obtain an identification card and would allow for registered grow and dispensary operations.

Bill status:

Currently referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

This information was last updated by Carolina Cannabis News on Jan. 18, 2019.

H 3276 - Decriminalization

House Bill 3276 was filed by Rep. Ivory Torrey Thigpen (D-Dist. 79, Richland).

This bill seeks to decriminalize possession of up to 28 ounces or less of cannabis, or 10 grams or less of hashish. However, law enforcement officers could still issue a citation for these amounts. The bill also seeks to decrease penalties for first offenses of less than one gram of methamphetamine or cocaine base. The bill would require drug treatment for these offenses in addition to mandatory probation.

Bill status:

Currently referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

This information was last updated by Carolina Cannabis News on Jan. 18, 2019.

H 3322 - Victim Restitution / Decriminalization

House Bill 3322 was co-filed by 11 representatives.

This is a complex restitution bill that also happens to include a section on decriminalization for illegal drug possession.

It could decriminalize up to 10 ounces of cannabis and 100 hundred grams of hashish; possession would be a misdemeanor with penalties of not more than 30 days in jail and fines of between $100 and $200. Judges could also mandate that the offender participates in a drug abuse program. 

This bill would raise the legal threshold for marijuana trafficking from 10 lbs to 20 lbs. For those caught in possession of between 20 lbs and 200 lbs (up from 100 lbs) of high-THC cannabis, not federally legal hemp, they face a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. A second offense could lead to a maximum of a 15-year sentence (down from 20 years) and a fine of $15,000. Third-time offenders face a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.

For those caught in possession of 1,000 or more high-THC cannabis plants (again, not federally legal hemp), the maximum prison sentence is 20 years (down from 25) and a $50,000 fine.

For those facing a third offense relating to narcotic drugs, marijuana, depressants, stimulants or hallucinogenic drugs, they face a maximum of 30 years in prison and a $50,000 fine. And convictions in other states count.

Importantly, in most of these instances, minimum sentencing requirements have been removed.

Bill status:

Currently referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

On Jan. 9, 2018, Rep. Wendell G. Gilliard (D-Dist. 111, Charleston County) and Joseph H. Jefferson, Jr. (D-Dist 102, Berkeley & Dorchester Counties) were added as cosponsors of the bill.

On Jan. 15, 2018, Rep. Mark N. Willis (R-Dist. 16, Greenville & Laurens Counties) was added as a cosponsor of the bill.

This information was last updated by Carolina Cannabis News on Jan. 18, 2019.

H 3444 - Cannabis for vets with PTSD

House Bill 3444 is another collaboration between Reps. Rutherford and Cobb-Hunter.

The bill seeks to legalize possession of high-THC cannabis up to 28 grams, or one ounce, or 10 grams of hashish by a military veteran who was honorably discharged or who the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs has diagnosed with service-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) arising from their military duty during active combat.

Bill status:

Currently referred to the House Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs Committee.

This information was last updated by Carolina Cannabis News on Jan. 18, 2019.

H 3449 Repeal Industrial Hemp Bill

House Bill 3449 was filed by 12 representatives.

The purpose of this bill is to repeal the state's industrial hemp bill in light of the passage of the federal 2018 farm bill.

Bill Status

The bill was filed on Jan. 8, 2019, and referred to the House Committee on Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs. Since then, 10 more state representatives have added their names as cosponsors of this bill.

This information was last updated by Carolina Cannabis News on Jan. 18, 2019.

H 3660 Compassionate Care Act (House version)

House Bill 3660 is the companion bill to Senate Bill 366 (see listing above). It is known as the Compassionate Care Act.

The House version was filed by Rep. McCoy, Rep. Nancy Mace (R-Dist. 99, Berkeley and Charleston Counties), Rep. Bill Taylor (R-Dist. 86, Aiken County), Rep. Linda Bennett (R-Dist. 114, Charleston and Dorchester Counties),Rep. Seth Rose (D-Dist. 72, Richland County), Rep. Leon Stavrinakis (D-Dist. 119, Charleston County) and Rep. Gilliard.

Bill Status

Filed on Jan. 17, 2019, the bill was referred to the House Committee on Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs.

This information was last updated by Carolina Cannabis News on Jan. 18, 2019.

BY Rhiannon Fionn

BY Rhiannon Fionn

Editor & Publisher

Rhiannon Fionn is an award-winning journalist based in Charlotte, N.C.

[Header image: S.C. General Assembly via WikiCommons.]