Doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals recently testified in front of a South Carolina Senate Medical Affairs subcommittee, arguing in favor of legalizing marijuana for medical use.
With South Carolina lawmakers currently considering a comprehensive medical marijuana bill, more than a dozen physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals recently testified in front of the state’s Senate Medical Affairs subcommittee in favor of medical cannabis use.
The South Carolina Compassionate Care Act, introduced by Sen. Tom Davis and Rep. Peter McCoy on the first day of the 2017 legislative session, would allow qualified patients with a doctor’s recommendation to possess and use up to two ounces of marijuana for medical purposes.
On March 8, the subcommittee listened to five hours of testimony from mostly supporters of the bill, including medical experts, patients and parents.
“Cannabis not for everybody, but I do believe if should be a first line option and not the last resort,” said Dr. Uma Dhanabalam, a physician in Massachusetts, claiming there’s years of research demonstrating cannabis’ therapeutic properties.
“I’m not pro cannabis – I’m just pro science,” said Arizona internist Dr. Sue Sisley. “I’ve started to examine the scientific literature, and I realized that there is a sufficient amount of scientific data to support the idea of cannabis as a medicine.”
Research indicates that cannabis’ therapeutic potential includes its ability to alleviate pain, nausea, spasms and seizures. It’s anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects have shown to be beneficial for those with multiple sclerosis, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, HIV/AIDS, arthritis, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Registered nurse Susan Watson-Neimy also testified in front of the subcommittee, and spoke about her 20-year-old daughter with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The chemotherapy her daughter undergoes used to cause her to be “completely debilitated” for days, but once she began to use cannabis to alleviate symptoms, she was much better able to manage the side effects of treatment.
“It’s night and day. She’s able to get up, go to school and reclaim her life. It’s a stark contrast,” said Watson-Neimy.
A representative from Fairfield Behavioral Health Services spoke out against the bill, citing concerns that legalizing medical use of cannabis could “decrease the perception of risk for our youth.” Studies conducted in states with medical marijuana legislation, however, have shown legalization to have no effect on teen use. The subcommittee also voiced concerns about marijuana being a “gateway drug,” but research has also shown that to be a common myth.
“Cannabis is not an entrance drug – it’s an exit drug from pharmaceuticals and narcotics,” said Dr. Dhanabalan.
Last October, former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch also acknowledged that marijuana use is not responsible for pushing a person to use harder drugs.
Twenty-eight U.S. states have so far passed comprehensive medical marijuana legislation. However, cannabis remains categorized as a Schedule I substance and the subsequent lack in clinical studies have contributed to it not yet being approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“I don’t want the legislators here to think they can wait until the FDA approves cannabis as a medicine, because that could be a decade away, and in the meantime, we’ve got sick patients right here in this state who desperately need legal access to quality medication,” said Dr. Sisley.
The subcommittee said that it would like to hear more conversation on the issue. As for now, South Carolina has a very restrictive low-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), high-cannabidiol (CBD) oil medical cannabis law in place, which offers little additional benefit to its residents.