South Carolina (PT) – The signs of the Old South are easy to find in South Carolina. The Civil War started in Charleston Harbor, cotton fields still line the roads throughout the Piedmont and the staunch evangelicals have a political stronghold in the Foothills. It is one of the most conservative states in the country and not a likely place for cannabis legislation to make its way to the statehouse, but this is not a likely story.
Sen. Tom Davis R-SC (Beaufort) was Chief of Staff for former Gov. Mark Sanford and is considered one of the more conservative members of the state senate. Davis had little idea that a meeting near his Low-country hometown in 2014 would set South Carolina up to possibly be the first state to have medicinal cannabis legislation in the Bible Belt. In the meeting, Sen. Davis met Jill Swing, the mother of then six-year-old Mary Louise, who has cerebral palsy and intractable epilepsy. Mary Louise could have up to 1,000 seizures in a day and even after receiving care from multiple specialists, no treatment seemed to alleviate her duress. Swing had seen press reports about CBD was doing for other children what she was hoping to find for her daughter.
Moved by Mary Louise and her struggle, Sen. Davis enlisted Swing as a spokesperson and together they were able to amend an existing law to legalize CBD within the state. This was just the beginning. The duo has since been an integral part of drafting legislation and forwarding the medical cannabis movement in South Carolina.
Swing developed into a champion for safe, legal effective medicine for not just Mary Louise, but for anyone who could benefit from cannabis treatments. She founded The Compassionate Care Alliance, and travels throughout the state educating legislators and finding ways to help others with the goal of legalizing medical cannabis.
Last year Sen. Davis introduced The Compassionate Care Act, which would legalize use of doctor prescribed THC to treat certain conditions. The bill is currently active on the statehouse floor and sources are claiming there will be some movement in the process within the next month. Even if the bill passes the governor may choose to veto due to pressure from state law enforcement officials and objections from powerful evangelical legislators.
Together and undeterred, Swing and Sen. Davis have become a formidable force for special need children in South Carolina, and have successfully crafted the medical cannabis narrative to be about compassion and education. It remains to be seen if medical THC will be legal in South Carolina, and even if the legislation passes, there will be multiple obstacles to overcome before the first THC prescription is written.
The two have been articulate about not pursuing the legalization of recreational cannabis, but we will probably see them working on other legislation in the future as the push for safe, legal and affordable access for all patients in South Carolina continues.
This article was submitted anonymously.