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Medical marijuana

Posted: April 10, 2014 9:52 a.m.
Updated: April 11, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Both Democrats and Republicans in South Carolina will have advisory questions on their June primary ballots -- votes that will not be binding but are intended simply to provide some feeling for what Palmetto State residents are thinking about particular issues. As you would guess, such questions often revolve around issues particularly important to one party or another, and they’re sometimes done to help provide leverage for the parties to push certain projects.

Democrats will ask voters whether they favor the use of medical marijuana. We wish Republicans would put the same query on their ballot, because it’s an issue that’s not nearly as simple as many people think. South Carolina is a conservative state, and the assumption would be that citizens here would reject such a measure. But more and more people, especially those with relatives and friends who have serious, debilitating diseases, favor the use of cannabis to relieve pain and suffering.

Such a bill could allow a person with a chronic, painful disease and a medical verification form, completed by a physician who has registered with DHEC, to obtain an identification card to use medical marijuana. It would also provide for the operation of dispensaries to cultivate, grow and dispense the product. Yes, that presents risks and would have to be closely monitored.

But consider that the S.C. House already has passed a bill authorizing the use of cannabis oil. Consider, too, that other pain-relieving drugs -- morphine, for instance -- are harmful when used outside medical purposes but are authorized for proper medical use. It should be no more difficult to control the use of marijuana than morphine or oxycodone.

Many who decry the use of medical marijuana have never watched friends or family members wracked in the throes of painful medical conditions. They have never considered the compassionate impact of the drug in helping alleviate suffering. A measure that can help seriously ill people, and can be properly controlled at the same time, should be considered. No, the state doesn’t want to throw the doors of pot wide open, but neither should it continue to deprive suffering patients of a remedy that can immeasurably improve their quality of life.

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