South Carolina Rep. Eric Bedingfield’s eldest son struggle with opioid addiction for six years until his overdose a year ago made the conservative Republican co-sponsor medical cannabis legislation. Bedingfield said recently “My mindset has changed from somebody who looked down on it as a negative substance to saying, ‘This has benefits.'”
Benefits of Marijuana:
Marijuana may effectively wean addicts from an opioid dependence, Bedingfield, 50, believes. He hopes medical marijuana can become an alternative prescriptions of OxyContin or other opioid painkillers to begin with, helping curb an epidemic he’s seen destroy families of all economic levels
Efforts to let patients legally access pot are starting to occur in the South two decades after California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana
28 states allow medical marijuana, but only two are in the South. Arkansas and Florida voters approved theirs in last November’s elections, but the law is not in effect yet. In Louisiana, a law which was signed last year, but hasn’t also gone into effect, doesn’t allow the smoking or vaping of marijuana.
Some of the South Caroline’s most conservative legislators are supporting the bill, like Bedingfield whose personal losses shifted his opinions while others have due to or the pleadings of parents and pastors in their districts
State lawmakers passed a very narrow law three years ago allowing patients with severe epilepsy, or their caregivers, to possess cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-psychoactive oil derived from marijuana. Bedingfield voted against the law.
Bill Davis was diagnosed two years ago with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a lung disease with no cure, he’s a Christian author who leads a Bible study for people fighting drug addiction. He says he was put on an experimental drug with “horrible side effects.” “I had to decide whether I wanted to die of lung disease or kidney or liver failure,” he said.
He then started vaping marijuana, which allows him to control the amount of CBD and THC he receives. He added “I’m praying this state will allow me to be treated legally for me to live” using “a plant that God made.”
After hearing Davis’ story over dinner at his home, Republican Rep. Jonathon Hill said he signed onto the bill.
Last month, a bill allowing people with incapacitating medical condition, or their adult caregivers, to legally possess 2 ounces (57 grams) of marijuana moved to the House’s full medical committee.
Law enforcement opposing:
South Carolina’s law enforcement agencies, including State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel strong oppose the bill.
The House panel was told by the director of the state Sheriffs’ Association, Jarrod Bruder, that sheriffs can’t support legalizing a drug the federal government still puts in the same class as heroin and cocaine.
However, his predecessor surprised viewers when he stood to support the bill.
Jeff Moore leading the association for 32 years and retired in 2014. He tributes marijuana with saving his son’s life, an army veteran, who suffers from PTSD and traumatic brain injury. But he says it also prevents his son, from coming home to South Carolina for fear of being arrested.