State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, has toiled for six years to get his peers in the General Assembly to approve a conservative measure to allow compassionate medical use of marijuana to relieve the pain and suffering for people who really need it. Thirty-eight states already have approved it.
But with just two weeks left in the legislative session, hope for passage is dwindling — not because the measure doesn’t have support, but because one guy is in the way. State Sen. Greg Hembree, a former solicitor from Myrtle Beach, has issued a procedural objection to stop progress. He’s shilling for law enforcement officials who are scared medical marijuana will open the gates to a flood of drug activity. Davis’ bill won’t allow that. Not only will marijuana not be dispensed in leafy, smokable form, but anyone who needs it will have to meet in person with a doctor before getting a prescription and written treatment plan. Patients also will be screened for any history of substance abuse.
But one man stands in the way thanks to a cowardly Senate procedure. Senators must demand more. Remove your objection, Sen. Hembree. Bring the bill to a vote. Make your case during a floor debate. Let it pass or fail based on its merits, not a procedure.
Legislators also must get off the dime on two other measures.
Fix ‘Charleston Loophole’
June 17 will mark six years since the murders of nine people at Emanuel AME Church. That’s six years without action from the legislature to fix the law that mistakenly allowed what would have been an illegal purchase of the gun used at Mother Emanuel.
South Carolina senators know the impact of the Emanuel killings perhaps more than most, since one of their own colleagues, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, was among those gunned down while gathered in fellowship. Despite that, Republicans in the legislature have been afraid to touch gun laws, afraid of being labeled soft by primary challengers from the right. But the days of the traitorous National Rifle Association stranglehold on the GOP are over.
Senators have two gun bills to consider before the end of session: Fix the Charleston loophole and reject the wrongheaded open-carry bill that loosens gun safety rules.
Pass hate crime bill
Along the same lines, S.C. Rep. Wendell Gilliard’s hate crime proposal before the Senate would allow South Carolina to punish hate-filled criminals under stronger state laws, rather than hoping the crimes draw the interest of federal prosecutors.
Reports of hate crimes have continued to increase in recent years, incited by sinister politics of racism and division sowed by the Trump wing of the Republican Party. Just this year, State lawmakers have repeatedly singled out LGBTQ residents for unjust laws. Incredibly, sexual orientation and gender identity were nearly removed as protections in committee.
South Carolina has waited too long for a law against hate crimes. Lawmakers should pass it now and continue to strengthen reporting requirements implemented in other states, like Georgia.