A Pocket Full of Felonies

My flight leaves in about 12 hours and the anxiety I usually feel starts to set in. I’m not nervous about the flight at all; at this point, after doing comedy for a decade, I’ve gotten used to flying. No, I’m nervous because I’m a stoner doing 10 shows in five cities in North and South Carolina. Let’s just say, North and South Carolina aren’t the most weed-friendly places in America.

I’m nervous about what clothes to pack, so I pack my Proxy instead and take a fat rip, knowing it’s going to be 14 days before I can take a proper dab again. Usually, my go-to travel setup is edibles, a couple of rosin vape pens, my Peak Pro, and a few grams of that good good.

Weed is currently decriminalized in North Carolina, so it’s like a $200 fine, but I think it’s still a pretty harsh penalty for concentrates. I also don’t want to be that guy on tour that has to be bailed out. It’s been 4 years since I’ve toured the Carolinas opening for Pauly Shore. It’s when I learned that the vape pens were hardcore felonies, or at least that’s what the TSA agent told me on my flight back to California. Unbeknownst to that agent, I had just handed him my fanny pack full of weed cartridges. I was pouring bullets of sweat when they pulled me aside after going through the X-ray. They were wondering if I could introduce them to Pauly Shore.

Everyone loves Pauly Shore but in the Bible Belt, he is like Redneck Jesus.

I decided to stick with some gummies and real deal resin vapes, a gift from a holy-man. I look at my suitcase one more time and remember what my very Mexican mother said the last time I went to North Carolina: “Wear lots of tie dye because it makes you look less threatening, and do not go back to anyone’s house after the shows. You go straight to the hotel.” She has nothing to worry about as long as I don’t run out of weed.

Courtesy of Frank Castillo

RALEIGH

I like to think of my comedy as kind of a tightrope act. Pauly’s audiences are fucking amazing and he sells out wherever we go. Regardless of whatever level you’re at, opening for Pauly is part of growing as a comedian and it’s fun. Driving city to city, It’s like a dysfunctional family road trip but with more laughs. The show is me opening for 25 minutes, Jessie Johnson getting the sweet spot featuring for 25 minutes, and Pauly closing it out.

The first venue was Good Nights Comedy Club in Raleigh. It’s a beautiful red brick building; so much history in this club. Sadly, they are tearing it down and moving to another spot.

I always get introduced to the Comedy Club’s resident stoner, this time it was one of the cooks. He kept asking me if I wanted to hit his contraption he calls the “Blinky”. It’s a homemade bong he kept in his car cup holder. Another employee hit my rosin pen and had a come-to-Jesus moment.

Only one show gave me trouble and that’s because, from what I understand, Raleigh is kind of a liberal city in North Carolina. The people that give me trouble when it comes to my comedy are pearl-clutchers, which could be either side of the aisle; gun rights activists who want to give teachers guns, and people who hate the word “privileged.”

Courtesy of Frank Castillo

GREENSBORO BROOOOOO

I love driving through the Carolinas, but there’s nothing more breathtaking than seeing a Steak ‘n Shake sign the same exit as your hotel. Unfortunately, because it’s fucking Greensboro and it’s a Monday night, everything shuts down at like 10 PM. I’m staring through the Steak ‘n Shake window absolutely devastated that I can’t get a Nutella milkshake. The whole time Jessie and Pauly are laughing in the back of the car. I give my pen a long rip and drive us to the hotel defeated.

The second we get to the hotel, Jessie is listening to her set and in her notebook. I, on the other hand, am covering the smoke detector with the bag you get from the ice bucket. Priorities.

The Greensboro Comedy Zone is family-owned and its green room is attached directly to the kitchen. You’ll be getting ready for the show, going over your notes, as they drop a fresh bag of mozzarella sticks. You can smell the french fries while you memorize punchlines.

I thought Greensboro was going to give me the most trouble and it ended up being my favorite show of the trip. Not because I did well but because I got to watch people not like my comedy. I have a joke about being in an interracial relationship, all the minorities that were in the audience laughed. A good amount of white people laughed as well, but there are always one or two couples that just stare at me, looking at me disapprovingly with their arms crossed. That shit’s my favorite.

Charlotte

As we pull in, I take inventory. I’ve got one full pen and I’ve killed the edibles. I find an ABX pen from an earlier trip to Mexico. Which means I went through their security and they didn’t notice. I count my blessings.

The Charlotte Comedy Zone is beautifully built. Colosseum-style seating and the stage is much higher than the audience below you but rises the farther back you go. Pauly’s got this room sold out and every joke you can feel gets longer because of the laughs.

This crowd is an interesting mix. I see some 1776 shirts, thin blue line hoodies and those guys did not shake my hand or want to take pictures with me after the show. After my school shooting joke, a few people tightened up and I called them snowflakes. It felt like I was in California for a second; it immediately gets them back. We leave that night and drive to Greenville for a show day and a day off.

Courtesy of Frank Castillo

Greenville

We stay in Greenville for two days. The show is on a Thursday and it sold out so fast they had to add a second show. I am officially out of weed. The homie Fumed Glass pulls up and graces us with some beautiful glass pieces and pendants. Explaining to Pauly Shore what a pendant is was very entertaining.

After the shows, people occasionally hand me goodies, usually their best homegrown stuff which is hit or miss. When we get back to the hotel, I ask the valet where’s the best place to smoke weed. He tells me he’s actually the owner of the valet company and that the best place to smoke is the little smoking area where the employees smoke. He tells me the manager of the hotel is gone for the night so I am pretty much free to just blaze up. Love when stoners help each other out.

Black Mountain

Asheville is a cute little town with amazing barbecue. The venue where we’re doing the show is in the next town over in Black Mountain at a place called Silverado’s.

A man in a cowboy hat informs me it used to be an outlaw biker bar and now it’s a country music venue. The show is outside on a rock stage and it’s a full crowd. The show is sponsored by a delta-9/CBD company.

North Carolina has these weird laws where somehow delta-9 and delta-8 slipped through the cracks. They won’t legalize weed, but they’ll try to figure some other weird shit out.

Someone hands me a joint and informs me I’m smoking delta-9 Cookies. It’s one of those joints where I can’t really tell if I’m stoned or not.

I start talking with the owner’s brother about doing concentrates and he says, “Yeah man, I have dabs in my car if you want to try some.” He pulls out a Huni Badger and a gram of what I can only describe as some home grown concentrates. It had sticks and twigs in it and surprisingly didn’t taste that bad.

After my set a fan wants to smoke weed with me before I leave and he says, “Yeah, I own this place. I’m also running for sheriff!” I immediately start laughing. Someone hands me an edible and says “It’s pretty good man, trust me!”

Usually I’m a little bit more wary about the things people hand me when it comes to edibles because you never know. We go to a bar afterwards to celebrate the end of the 10-day tour. We reflect on the trip, life, and comedy.

Courtesy of Frank Castillo

Then everything I took hits me. All of a sudden, my face starts to get hot and my hands get really sweaty. I feel really high and not normal. I start to get a little panicky and my limbs feel like they are disconnected from my body. My face starts to feel prickly.

I text my homie who is in the industry and ask, “Hey man, I think I got delta-9 or delta-8 or some shit.” I recap my whole night and he goes, “Yeah, just take it easy drink some water and take some CBD if you need it. I wouldn’t really worry about the edible.” A wave of relief washed over me.

“What I’d really be worried about is whatever else he smokes outta that Huni Badger.”

We make it back to the hotel, I murder the snack bar and I pass out in a pile of chips.

After a long flight back to Los Angeles I get picked up from the airport and I’m greeted with a packed Puffco and the sweet deliciousness of some California rosin. As we head back home to Hollywood I think, I can’t wait to go back on the road.

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Medical Cannabis Bill Likely Dead in South Carolina Legislature

An effort to save a bill that would legalize medical cannabis in South Carolina failed on Wednesday in the state legislature, dimming its prospects this year.

The State newspaper of Columbia, South Carolina reports that “House lawmakers on Wednesday voted 59-55 against an appeal proposed by House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, to keep the bill alive,” which followed a request from a Republican member of the state House that “the proposal be ruled unconstitutional since it creates a new tax, arguing that revenue-raising bills can only originate in the lower chamber.”

As the newspaper noted, the move “likely [ends] any hope of passage this year.”

It marks a disappointing development after the bill won approval in the state Senate in February. Members of that chamber deemed medical cannabis a major priority at the start of the legislative session earlier this year.

The bill’s sponsor, GOP state Sen. Tom Davis, has been pushing a medical cannabis bill since 2015.

“If you pound at the door long enough. If you make your case. If the public is asking for something, the state Senate owes a debate,” Davis told The Post and Courier in January. “The people of South Carolina deserve to know where their elected officials stand on this issue.”

Davis’s effort to get medical cannabis legalized in South Carolina has been marked by incremental progress.

Per The Post and Courier, the Senate Medical Affairs Committee brought Davis’s bill to the floor in 2018, but “opposition blocked a floor debate from ever happening.” The newspaper said that the “2021 session closed last May with GOP leadership promising Davis he’d get a vote this year.”

In February, the bill, known as the SC Compassionate Care Act, broke through and was approved in the state Senate by a vote of 28-15.

“Even those that were opposed to the bill, I mean, they could’ve just been opposed. They could’ve ranted against it, they could’ve tried to delay things. They didn’t. They expressed their concerns, but what they then did is dug in and tried to make the bill better. And so, what you saw over the last three weeks is what’s supposed to happen in a representative democracy,” Davis said at the time, as quoted by local television station WCSC.

But the dream appeared to die on Wednesday in the South Carolina House. According to The State, Davis “and other Senate leaders stood speechless in the House chamber Wednesday as they watched a last-ditch effort to save the bill fail,” with the Republican leader in the Senate saying that the procedural move could “have significant consequences on the relationship between the House and Senate.”

“We suffered a setback procedurally in the House today,” Davis said, as quoted by The State. “I can’t cry about it. I can’t pout about it. I can’t come back and lash out and try to hurt other people’s bills. That’s not productive. I just need to find out a way to get this thing on the merits up or down in the House and that’s what I’m going to be working on.”

Advocates such as Davis might be running out of moves, too. The State reported that it is not clear “whether State House leaders would be willing to put the issue on the sine die resolution, an agreement between the chambers that outlines what they can debate after the session adjourns.”

“I need to figure out if there’s another vehicle. We still have four days left in the session, lots of bills on the calendar, some involving pharmacies and medical affairs, and things of that nature,” Davis said, as quoted by The State. “And so I think there’s an opportunity and I’ll explore what they are.”

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Medical Cannabis Bill Likely Dead in South Carolina Legislature

An effort to save a bill that would legalize medical cannabis in South Carolina failed on Wednesday in the state legislature, dimming its prospects this year.

The State newspaper of Columbia, South Carolina reports that “House lawmakers on Wednesday voted 59-55 against an appeal proposed by House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, to keep the bill alive,” which followed a request from a Republican member of the state House that “the proposal be ruled unconstitutional since it creates a new tax, arguing that revenue-raising bills can only originate in the lower chamber.”

As the newspaper noted, the move “likely [ends] any hope of passage this year.”

It marks a disappointing development after the bill won approval in the state Senate in February. Members of that chamber deemed medical cannabis a major priority at the start of the legislative session earlier this year.

The bill’s sponsor, GOP state Sen. Tom Davis, has been pushing a medical cannabis bill since 2015.

“If you pound at the door long enough. If you make your case. If the public is asking for something, the state Senate owes a debate,” Davis told The Post and Courier in January. “The people of South Carolina deserve to know where their elected officials stand on this issue.”

Davis’s effort to get medical cannabis legalized in South Carolina has been marked by incremental progress.

Per The Post and Courier, the Senate Medical Affairs Committee brought Davis’s bill to the floor in 2018, but “opposition blocked a floor debate from ever happening.” The newspaper said that the “2021 session closed last May with GOP leadership promising Davis he’d get a vote this year.”

In February, the bill, known as the SC Compassionate Care Act, broke through and was approved in the state Senate by a vote of 28-15.

“Even those that were opposed to the bill, I mean, they could’ve just been opposed. They could’ve ranted against it, they could’ve tried to delay things. They didn’t. They expressed their concerns, but what they then did is dug in and tried to make the bill better. And so, what you saw over the last three weeks is what’s supposed to happen in a representative democracy,” Davis said at the time, as quoted by local television station WCSC.

But the dream appeared to die on Wednesday in the South Carolina House. According to The State, Davis “and other Senate leaders stood speechless in the House chamber Wednesday as they watched a last-ditch effort to save the bill fail,” with the Republican leader in the Senate saying that the procedural move could “have significant consequences on the relationship between the House and Senate.”

“We suffered a setback procedurally in the House today,” Davis said, as quoted by The State. “I can’t cry about it. I can’t pout about it. I can’t come back and lash out and try to hurt other people’s bills. That’s not productive. I just need to find out a way to get this thing on the merits up or down in the House and that’s what I’m going to be working on.”

Advocates such as Davis might be running out of moves, too. The State reported that it is not clear “whether State House leaders would be willing to put the issue on the sine die resolution, an agreement between the chambers that outlines what they can debate after the session adjourns.”

“I need to figure out if there’s another vehicle. We still have four days left in the session, lots of bills on the calendar, some involving pharmacies and medical affairs, and things of that nature,” Davis said, as quoted by The State. “And so I think there’s an opportunity and I’ll explore what they are.”

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South Carolina Medical Cannabis Bill Heads to House Floor

A bill to legalize medical cannabis in South Carolina is headed for a vote in the state House of Representatives after the measure was approved by a legislative committee last week. The bill, known as the Compassionate Care Act, was approved by the House Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs Committee by a vote of 15-3 on Thursday.

The legislation would create one of the nation’s strictest medical cannabis programs, allowing only patients with specified serious medical conditions to use a limited selection of cannabis products.

“Anytime as a legislative body we can do something to help people, we ought to give that every consideration,” said state Representative Wendy Brawley as the measure was considered by House lawmakers last week.

Under the Compassionate Care Act (S.150/H. 3361), patients with one or more qualifying health conditions would be permitted to use cannabis medicinally. Patients would be required to meet with a physician in person to receive a recommendation to use medical pot.

Qualifying debilitating medical conditions include cancer, multiple sclerosis, a neurological disease or disorder (including epilepsy), sickle cell disease, glaucoma, PTSD, autism, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, cachexia, a condition causing a person to be home-bound that includes severe or persistent nausea, terminal illness with a life expectancy of less than one year, a chronic medical condition causing severe and persistent muscle spasms or a chronic medical condition for which an opioid is or could be prescribed based on accepted standards of care.

The measure does not allow patients to smoke cannabis and possession of plant forms of cannabis would still be a crime. Medical products including topicals, oils and vapes would be produced by regulated suppliers. Patients would be limited to purchasing a two-week supply of cannabis products at one time.

Senate Approved Bill in February

The bill was approved by the South Carolina Senate in February after first being classified as priority legislation a month earlier. The bill was originally introduced in 2015 by Senator Tom Davis. In 2018, the Senate Medical Affairs Committee advanced the bill to the Senate floor but the legislation was blocked from coming up for debate. At the close of the 2021 legislative session, Republican leaders promised Davis that the bill would come up for a vote this year.

To gain the approval of lawmakers in deeply conservative South Carolina, Davis has admitted that the bill would create one of the nation’s most strict medical cannabis programs. While members of the House debated the legislation last week, Davis said the bill is designed to prevent recreational cannabis use.

“I want people to look at South Carolina’s law and say, ‘If you want a law that helps patients and empowers doctors but doesn’t go down the slope to recreational, this is your bill,’” Davis told his colleagues.

Before the vote, the members of the committee also heard from Gary Hess, the founder and executive director of Louisiana-based Veterans Alliance for Holistic Alternatives. He told lawmakers that he was forced to purchase illicit cannabis to cope with the pain and PTSD he has endured since suffering a traumatic brain injury in the Iraq War.

“Here’s the sad truth, is that if I continue to rely on the VA in the western model of medicine, I would not be standing here in front of you today,” Hess told lawmakers at the committee hearing. “The truth is that the medical efficacy of this plant cannot be denied. Yet here, in South Carolina, veterans returning to their communities after service are being forced to become criminals placing themselves, their families and their children at risk to access this medicine.”

The House committee approved two amendments to the legislation before approving the bill. One amendment would require background checks for medical cannabis distributors and security plans for their businesses. The other would require cannabis products to be labeled with ingredients including the cultivar of cannabis used to manufacture the product.

Members of the committee rejected dozens of amendments from Representative Vic Dabney, who had proposed more than 100 changes to the legislation. He withdrew the remaining amendments but said he would have more proposed changes for the bill when it is taken up by the full House.

“My concern is, across the nation, wherever these bills have passed, a lot of problems develop,” said Dabney. He said he agrees in principle with allowing access to the drug for patients with serious medical conditions, but characterized the legislation as “too broad based.”

But Representative Deon Tedder said the benefits of legalizing medical cannabis in South Carolina 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.

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U.S. House Reps Call on United Nations to Deschedule Pot

U.S. House Reps. Nancy Mace, a Republican from South Carolina, and Barbara Lee, a Democrat from California, introduced a resolution on Friday “instructing the United Nations to deschedule cannabis from Schedule 1 of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, and treat cannabis as a commodity similar to other agricultural commodities,” according to a press release.

“Many countries would deschedule cannabis and reevaluate how cannabis is classified if the U.N. did so,” Mace said. “Cannabis has been shown to be effective in the treatment of numerous medical conditions such as epilepsy, PTSD, cancer pain relief, nausea, and chronic and terminal illnesses. Descheduling at the U.N. would support global research into how cannabis can treat a wide range of ailments and conditions.”

Lee said that scientific research “has shown that cannabis has wide-ranging positive effects on chronic illness treatment.”

“The classification of cannabis as a schedule one drug is outdated, out of touch, and should be addressed not only in the United States, but around the world. The United States should be leading the way on cannabis reform on the global stage, and descheduling at the United Nations would be a great start,” Lee said in the press release.

A treaty that “aims to combat drug abuse by coordinated international action,” the Single Convention of Narcotic Drugs has more than 60 signatories.

“There are two forms of intervention and control that work together. First, it seeks to limit the possession, use, trade in, distribution, import, export, manufacture and production of drugs exclusively to medical and scientific purposes. Second, it combats drug trafficking through international cooperation to deter and discourage drug traffickers,” according to a description of the treaty on the United Nations’ website.

A freshman member of the House of Representatives, Mace has emerged as one of the most vocal legalization advocates among Republicans.

In November, Mace introduced a bill that would legalize pot on the federal level and allow states to institute their own cannabis policies. The legislation would remove cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act, and would effectively treat weed like alcohol.

“My home state of South Carolina permits CBD, Florida allows medical marijuana, California and others have full recreational use, for example. Every state is different. Cannabis reform at the federal level must take all of this into account. And it’s past time federal law codifies this reality,” Mace said in an announcement at the time. “This is why I’m introducing the States Reform Act, a bill which seeks to remove cannabis from Schedule I in a manner consistent with the rights of states to determine what level of cannabis reform each state already has, or not. “This bill supports veterans, law enforcement, farmers, businesses, those with serious illnesses, and it is good for criminal justice reform. Furthermore, a super-majority of Americans support an end to cannabis prohibition, which is why only three states in the country have no cannabis reform at all. The States Reform Act takes special care to keep Americans and their children safe while ending federal interference with state cannabis laws. Washington needs to provide a framework which allows states to make their own decisions on cannabis moving forward. This bill does that.”

Earlier this year, Amazon endorsed Mace’s bill.

“Like so many in this country, we believe it’s time to reform the nation’s cannabis policy and Amazon is committed to helping lead the effort,” the company said in a statement in January.

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South Carolina Lawmakers Mull Over Medical Cannabis Proposal

Debate surrounding a proposal to legalize medical cannabis will continue this week in the South Carolina legislature, with votes on changes to the bill reportedly coming as early as Tuesday.

Members of the state Senate began debate last week on legislation introduced by Republican Senator Tom Davis, known as the “South Carolina Compassionate Care Act.”

Under the bill offered up by Davis, patients with at least one of a number of qualifying conditions could received cannabis treatment, including: cancer, multiple sclerosis, a neurological disease or disorder (including epilepsy), sickle cell disease, glaucoma, PTSD, autism, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, cachexia, a condition causing a person to be home-bound that includes severe or persistent nausea, terminal illness with a life expectancy of less than one year, a chronic medical condition causing severe and persistent muscle spasms or a chronic medical condition for which an opioid is or could be prescribed based on accepted standards of care.

But there are restrictions on how the cannabis treatment may be administered, with eligible patients unable to legally smoke marijuana. Instead, they would use alternative methods, such as oils, vaporizers and patches.

According to the Associated Press, “there will be more debate when the Senate meets” on Tuesday, and “there may be votes on amendments to change the bill.”

The state Senate began debate on Davis’s bill last Wednesday and Thursday, but the Associated Press said that lawmakers adjourned before holding a vote.

However, the debate itself was historic. Davis has been pushing to legalize medical marijuana in the Palmetto State since 2015. Last week marked the first time in the GOP lawmaker’s seven-year effort that one of his proposals was actually brought to a debate on the Senate floor.

“If you pound at the door long enough. If you make your case. If the public is asking for something, the state Senate owes a debate,” Davis told The Post and Courier newspaper earlier this month. “The people of South Carolina deserve to know where their elected officials stand on this issue.”

The Post and Courier said that Davis has said that his bill would establish “the most conservative medical marijuana program in the country as a result of continued opposition from law enforcement, most notably State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel, who’s highly respected in the Statehouse.”

The Associated Press said that Davis “made his bill conservative based on concern from law enforcement and others.”

But the legislation’s prospects will still face headwinds from other lawmakers and interest groups in the state. 

Groups like the South Carolina Sheriff’s Association are opposed to the proposal, for example.

“If marijuana is medicine, it should be regulated as every other medicine is regulated. We are aware of no other medication that has to be approved by the General Assembly,” said Jarrod Bruder, executive director of the South Carolina Sheriff’s Association. “This (bill) includes a lot of other things—including vaping, including edibles. This is not going to your local pharmacy—it’s going to a dispensary. This is not being treated like every other medicine is.”

South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel voiced similar objections, telling local television station WYFF4: “My position on medical marijuana is well known and unchanged. Until it is approved by the FDA, prescribed by a physician and dispensed by a pharmacist I remain opposed to it. Doctors cannot legally prescribe it and pharmacists cannot legally dispense it.”

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, has expressed opposition to recreational pot, but said last summer that he needs “more information” on medical cannabis.

“I know there’s a lot of suffering that is—apparently is—treatable or helped with what they call medical marijuana,” McMaster said at the time. “I think we need to be very careful and use common sense and see what experience has produced in other states before we move too quickly.”

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South Carolina Senate To Debate Medical Cannabis Bill

South Carolina senators will debate a bill to legalize the medicinal use of cannabis this week after an eight-year effort to bring the proposal to the floor of the state Senate. If passed, Senate Bill 150 would allow patients with certain debilitating medical conditions to use medical cannabis products. A companion measure, House Bill 3361, is also pending in the South Carolina House of Representatives.

Last week, Senators unanimously agreed to assign special order status to the bill, which faces strong opposition in deeply conservative South Carolina. As a legislative priority, senators will be required to approve or reject the bill before moving on to other legislation. Debate on the bill is expected to begin Tuesday or Wednesday of this week, according to media reports.

The measure, known as the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act, was first proposed in 2015 by Republican Sen. Tom Davis. In 2018, the Senate Medical Affairs Committee advanced the bill to the Senate floor but senators opposed to the measure blocked the legislation from coming up for debate. At the close of the 2021 legislative session, Republican leaders promised Davis that the bill would come up for a vote this year.

“If you pound at the door long enough. If you make your case. If the public is asking for something, the state Senate owes a debate,” Davis told The Post and Courier. “The people of South Carolina deserve to know where their elected officials stand on this issue.”

South Carolina Medical Cannabis Bill Contains Strict Limits

The Compassionate Care Act would allow patients with one or more qualifying health conditions to use cannabis medicinally. Qualifying debilitating medical conditions include cancer, multiple sclerosis, a neurological disease or disorder (including epilepsy), sickle cell disease, glaucoma, PTSD, autism, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, cachexia, a condition causing a person to be home-bound that includes severe or persistent nausea, terminal illness with a life expectancy of less than one year, a chronic medical condition causing severe and persistent muscle spasms or a chronic medical condition for which an opioid is or could be prescribed based on accepted standards of care.

Smoking cannabis would not be allowed. Instead, patients would have access to medical marijuana products including vaporizers, topicals, and patches. Patients would be allowed to purchase up to a two-week supply of cannabis products at a time.

The bill also establishes rules for physicians to recommend medical cannabis and regulations for the production and sale of medical marijuana, including a requirement that cannabis dispensaries complete a licensing process every two years. Dispensaries would be required to contract with a state-licensed pharmacist, physician’s assistant or clinical practice nurse with training in the medicinal use of cannabis. Cannabis products would be subject to testing and labeling requirements and a seed-to-sale tracking system would be established to monitor transfers of medical marijuana products. Davis said the legislation would create the nation’s strictest medicinal cannabis program.

“I want to empower physicians. I want to help patients who could benefit from cannabis to alleviate their medical conditions,” Davis told reporters. “But I want it to be tightly regulated and controlled. I don’t want it to be a precursor to adult recreational use.”

Advocates Back Legislation

The South Carolina Compassionate Care Act is supported by medical cannabis advocates including Jill Swing, the founder and president of the South Carolina Compassionate Care Alliance. She believes her daughter would benefit from medical cannabis.

“Mary Louise shouldn’t have to continue to suffer and other patients across the state shouldn’t continue to suffer when this medication is available in 36 other states,” said Swing.

“I genuinely hope that every single Senator that walks into that chamber opens their minds and their hearts,” she added.

But Davis’ bill is opposed by law enforcement leaders, who cite public safety issues and the fear that permitting medical marijuana will lead to the legalization of recreational cannabis.

“If marijuana is medicine, it should be regulated as every other medicine is regulated. We are aware of no other medication that has to be approved by the General Assembly,” said Jarrod Bruder, executive director of the South Carolina Sheriff’s Association. “This (bill) includes a lot of other things — including vaping, including edibles. This is not going to your local pharmacy — it’s going to a dispensary. This is not being treated like every other medicine is.”

Kevin Tolson, the executive director of the law enforcement group, said in a statement that legalizing medical cannabis in South Carolina would lead to increased traffic accidents and financial crimes by cannabis businesses.

“I understand supporters of this bill are seeking to bring comfort and relief to friends and family members who are suffering from debilitating illnesses,” Tolson wrote. “But I can’t endorse or even ignore the attempt to provide relief through illegal methods, especially when those attempts will jeopardize public safety.”

Davis, however, believes that public opinion is on the side of reform. In December, a poll of 300 registered voters found that 54 percent favored legalizing the medicinal use of cannabis, with another 14 percent undecided on the issue.

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South Dakota Governor Demands Cannabis Advocates Cover Legal Costs

Not content with triumphing in court, conservative South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem wants cannabis advocates to pick up the tab, too. 

A spokesperson for Noem said last week that organizers behind the nullified amendment to legalize cannabis in the Mount Rushmore State should have to cover the expenses stemming from the governor’s own legal challenge against the law.

In 2020, 54 percent of voters in South Dakota approved Amendment A, which would have legalized cannabis for adults ages 21 and older. However, things got very complicated very quickly. 

Noem was a vocal opponent of the amendment throughout the campaign and maintained her objections even after its passage. 

Two law enforcement officials brought a lawsuit on Noem’s behalf, challenging the constitutionality of Amendment A. In February of last year, a circuit court judge in South Dakota agreed, striking down the amendment.

The state Supreme Court took up the case in April and, in late November, upheld the lower court’s ruling, saying that Amendment A, which dealt with both medicinal and recreational pot, violated South Dakota’s “one subject” requirement for constitutional amendments.

Noem, widely seen as a potential 2022 Republican presidential contender, celebrated the ruling.

“South Dakota is a place where the rule of law and our Constitution matter, and that’s what today’s decision is about,” the governor said in a statement at the time. “We do things right—and how we do things matters just as much as what we are doing. We are still governed by the rule of law. This decision does not affect my Administration’s implementation of the medical cannabis program voters approved in 2020. That program was launched earlier this month, and the first cards have already gone out to eligible South Dakotans.” 

A poll last month found that more than 50 percent of South Dakotans disapprove of Noem’s handling, the only policy area in which she received low marks. (The same poll found that her overall approval rating stands at 61 percent.)

An attorneys group in Sioux Falls, South Dakota “received $142,000 in December for successfully arguing that Amendment A violated the state Constitution,” according to the Argus Leader newspaper.

Ian Fury, a spokesman for Noem’s office, said that expense should be paid by the individuals who brought Amendment A to the ballot.

“The proponents of Amendment A submitted an unconstitutional amendment and should reimburse South Dakota taxpayers for the costs associated with their drafting errors,” Fury told the Argus Leader.

The group behind the amendment, South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, said simply, “That will not happen.”

“South Dakota cannabis reform advocates have no obligation to pay for Governor Noem’s political crusade to overturn the will of the people. To suggest otherwise is ridiculous,” said Matthew Schweich, the campaign director for South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws. 

“Amendment A was a sensible and well-drafted initiative approved by a majority of South Dakota voters at the ballot box, and it was only repealed due to a deeply flawed court ruling that relied on a far-fetched legal theory lacking evidentiary support. Driven by her desire to deprive South Dakotans of personal freedom on cannabis, Governor Noem went out of her way to create an unnecessary legal battle over Amendment A and used taxpayer money to do it. As a result of her actions, South Dakotans paid to have their own votes reversed.”

South Dakota voters approved a separate measure at the ballot in 2020 that specifically legalized medical cannabis and, in November, qualifying patients there began applying for cards.

Meanwhile, lawmakers there have prepared dozens of bills aimed at reforming the state’s marijuana laws during this year’s legislative session.

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South Carolina Lawmakers Fight Cannabis Smell Search Law

Catching a whiff of a weed shouldn’t be enough for probable cause, and South Carolina lawmakers want to make sure it no longer is. That’s the thinking behind a bill offered up by a Democratic lawmaker in South Carolina.

State House Representative Deon Tedder “is pushing for a bill where the scent of marijuana alone would not provide law enforcement with reasonable suspicion or probable cause to support a stop, search, seizure or arrest,” according to local television station WSPA.

“The smell alone is not enough to be considered an illegal act because the accused could’ve been around someone who was illegally using marijuana or legally using hemp and both substances smell the same,” Tedder said, as quoted by the station.

“It’s a fishing expedition is what I call it,” he continued. “It just allows for them to search for things, so I think that this bill will take care of that and stop certain bad actors on police forces from doing a fishing expedition because then they could just go look for anything.”

The station reported that the bill “would stop a person or motor vehicle from being stopped or searched based solely on the scent of marijuana, cannabis or hemp, whether burnt or not,” and that it would not “stop an officer from searching a vehicle if someone appears under the influence.”

Tedder, a Democrat from Charleston, was motivated to propose the legislation because he believes “most people stopped and searched in South Carolina are African American males who were stopped because an officer allegedly smelled marijuana,” according to the station.

The bill might have an uphill climb in the state’s general assembly, where Republicans hold large majorities in each chamber.

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster, a Republican, has said that he is opposed to legalizing recreational pot.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” McMaster said last year. “It’s not helpful.” 

South Carolina is currently one of only 14 states that has not legalized medical cannabis, although McMaster has said he is potentially amenable to the policy.

“That’s a different story, and there may be some answers there,” he said last summer. “I know there’s a lot of suffering that is helped with medical marijuana.”

McMaster will be up for re-election this year. One potential challenger, Democratic congressman Joe Cunningham, has made it clear that he intends to run on legalization. 

“This is going to be a game changer in South Carolina,” Cunningham said last year of legalizing recreational and medical cannabis in the state. “There are so many reasons why we need to do this, and the time is now.”

“People are behind it, and politicians need to get behind it, too,” Cunningham added.

He might have a point.

A poll released last year by the Marijuana Policy Project found that 72 percent of South Carolina voters support “allowing patients in [the state] who suffer from serious medical conditions to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it,” while only 15 percent were opposed.

The absence of a medical cannabis law is not due to a lack of trying.

Legislators in South Carolina have taken a stab at medical cannabis bills in recent years. In late 2020, a Republican state senator there introduced the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act, which would have legalized medical marijuana for the following qualifying conditions: cancer; multiple sclerosis; neurological disease; sickle cell anemia; glaucoma; PTSD; autism; Crohn’s disease; ulcerative colitis; cachexia; conditions that cause people to stay home chronically, be chronically nauseous or have persistent muscle spasms; a chronic medical condition requiring opiates and terminal diseases where the patient has a year or less to live.

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South Carolina Republican Unveils New Cannabis Legalization Bill

Republican U.S. Representative Nancy Mace of South Carolina unveiled a bill to regulate and tax marijuana on Monday, offering a new path to reach the goal of federal cannabis policy reform. According to a press release, under the legislation, known as the States Reform Act, marijuana would be decriminalized at the federal level and states would be free to set their own cannabis regulatory policies.

At a press conference to unveil the legislation held at the Capitol on Monday afternoon, Mace noted that only three states currently lack some form of legal cannabis.

“My home state of South Carolina permits CBD, Florida allows medical marijuana, California and others have full recreational use, for example. Every state is different. Cannabis reform at the federal level must take all of this into account. And it’s past time federal law codifies this reality,” Mace said in written comments prepared for the event. “This is why I’m introducing the States Reform Act, a bill which seeks to remove cannabis from Schedule I in a manner consistent with the rights of states to determine what level of cannabis reform each state already has, or not.”

Mace, appearing with a contingent of stakeholders, veterans, and law enforcement officers, noted that public opinion polls show that a supermajority of Americans are in favor of reforming the nation’s cannabis laws. She added that her bill supports farmers, businesses, law enforcement, and medical marijuana patients while furthering the cause of criminal justice reform.

Bill Lets States Decide on Legalization

Under Mace’s bill, cannabis would be removed from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, and the states would be allowed to take the lead on marijuana legalization and regulation for their jurisdictions. At the federal level, cannabis would be regulated like alcohol, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture responsible for regulating growers while medical uses would be overseen by the Food and Drug Administration. 

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau will regulate cannabis products under the bill. The States Reform Act also levies a three percent federal excise tax on cannabis products, with revenue raised dedicated to funding law enforcement, small business, and veterans mental health initiatives.

Mace’s bill also ensures safe harbor for state medical marijuana programs and patient access to medicinal cannabis. The legislation also specifically protects the use of medical cannabis as a treatment for arthritis, cancer, chronic pain, sickle cell disease, HIV/AIDS and post traumatic stress disorder.

Justice reform provisions of the bill include the release of prisoners convicted of federal nonviolent cannabis-related offenses and expungement of records of such convictions. Cartel members, agents of cartel gangs or those convicted of driving under the influence will not be eligible for relief, however. Mace’s office estimated that approximately 2,600 federal prisoners would be released if the legislation is signed into law.

Alternative to Democrats’ Legalization Plan

Mace’s bill serves as an alternative to Democrats’ plans to legalize cannabis at the federal level, including a proposal unveiled by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York in July. Under his bill, known as the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, marijuana would be taxed at a much higher rate of 25.5 percent, with proceeds funding broad social equity and economic development programs. 

Graham Farrar, the president and co-founder of California vertically integrated cannabis company Glass House Brands, characterized the new legalization proposal as “exciting stuff,” adding the legislation “just removed the question on whether this is a bipartisan issue or not.” Farrar said Mace’s bill could also spur support for the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act and predicted the chances that Congress would pass cannabis banking legislation this year have increased substantially.

“If the Republicans and the Democrats want to get in a pissing match on who can legalize better, I’m all for it! I think the move significantly ups the odds across the board,” he wrote in an electronic message.

Nick Kovacevich, CEO of cannabis accessories distributor Greenlane Holdings, noted that “the current Democratic leadership is eager to legalize cannabis, but the fear is that they won’t be able to find a path through Republican resistance.”

“The fact that a Republican is dropping a legalization bill is very encouraging because it will display a middle ground toward accomplishing this ever-important goal—the legalization of cannabis,” Kovacevich wrote in an email. “Furthermore, this is a smart move by the GOP since they are gaining momentum into the midterms and cannabis is such a popular issue with the voters. If successful with cannabis legalization, it could result in broad election success come a year from now.”

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