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Medical marijuana bill heads to South Carolina House floor

If the bill becomes law South Carolina will be the 38th state to legalize medical marijuana.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A bill allowing use of medical marijuana in South Carolina is going to the House floor after a House committee voted 16-3 in favor of the bill Thursday.

The Senate passed the bill in February. If it becomes law, South Carolina will join 37 other states who have legalized medical marijuana.

“Anytime as a legislative body we can do something to help people, we ought to give that every consideration,” said state Rep. Wendy Brawley

Unlike other states, South Carolina's law would be one of the most restrictive in the country. Only South Carolinians with specific medical conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, sickle cell anemia, autism and some post-traumatic stress disorder would be able to obtain marijuana. Smoking the drug would be illegal. Instead patients would have to use oil, salves, patches or vaporizers. 

Doctors would have to meet patients in person and patients could only get a two-week supply at one time.  

The House Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs Committee adopted two changes to the bill Thursday.

One would require criminal background checks for distributors and security plans for their businesses. The second would require patients to be notified of the exact strain of marijuana and what ingredients are in the THC product. 

Rep. Vic Dabney proposed more than 100 amendments to the bill. More than half were found out of order. He pulled the rest after feeling his concerns about the bill were heard. He hinted at bringing many more amendments to the house floor when debate begins. 

“My concern is, across the nation, wherever these bills have passed, a lot of problems develop," said Dabney. He said he agrees with giving those with medical conditions access to the drug, but that this bill is "too broad based."

RELATED: Medical marijuana bill up for debate in SC Senate on Wednesday

Rep. Sandy McGarry voted against the bill. She pointed to the fact that the Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve marijuana for medicinal purposes. 

“I agree with the American Medical Association and the AAMA that there needs to be more testing and more guidance on this before it can be actually a prescription drug in my opinion," said McGarry.

However, for supporters of the bill like Rep. Deon Tedder, the rewards outweigh the risks. 

“I'd rather have people having access to safe use of medical marijuana than have them go out and try to go to another state or illegally obtain marijuana," said Tedder. 

While the legislation received bipartisan support in the Senate, it's fate is unknown in the house. Democrats and Republicans have voiced support and opposition to the legislation. 

Governor Henry McMaster has not said whether he will support the bill if it reaches his desk. 

Lawmakers are now on Easter break and will return to the State House after next week. 

RELATED: Medical marijuana bill moves to the House with revisions

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