Libertarian Reviews South Carolina's Medical Marijuana Bills

Marijuana with Prescription

Comparison of S.212 and H.3128 (medical marijuana bills)

By Laird Minor of Greenville County

I’ve gone through the two bills presently pending in the SC General Assembly concerning the legalization of medical marijuana. (This was a relatively quick review and comparison; I don’t claim to have carefully read every word in these bills, each of which is 25 – 30 pages long.) Not surprisingly, they are very similar in many respects. Both require registration of permitted users and their caregivers. Both are competently drafted (probably by the GA’s legal staff), and both are reasonably good (as far as they go). On balance, however, I think the House bill is superior, for the following reasons:

1. The House bill permits registered users and their registered caregivers to grow their own plants (in small numbers).
2. The House bill contains automatic approval is the specified regulatory agency fails to act on an application within 35 days.
3. The House bill contains much stronger protections of private property in the event an individual is erroneously subjected to action by law enforcement officials.
4. The House bill contains a specific statement that the mere application for, or possession of, a registration card under the Act does not constitute “probable cause” or “reasonable suspicion” for a search or the issuance of a warrant.
5. Both bills provide for the licensing of dispensaries, but only the House bill also permits them to cultivate, process, pack, etc., their product; the Senate bill separately registers and regulates cultivation facilities.

Of course, neither bill permits the recreational use of marijuana (in fact, both are quite harsh in their punishment of people who abuse the medical use permit), but that is only to be expected.

One weakness in both bills is that while both prohibit state or local law enforcement agencies to arrest licensed persons who possess the specified small amount of marijuana (as long as it is being used for the prescribed purposes) neither prohibits cooperation with federal agencies in enforcing the federal anti-marijuana laws. This could be a loophole which might be exploited by aggressive police chiefs, etc. Perhaps this flaw can be fixed by amendment.

There might be other important differences I’ve missed, but the above is enough for me to consider the House bill superior.