Last Update: January 21, 2015
2015-2016 legislative session convenes in Columbia; marijuana policy reform introduced
The South Carolina Legislature has convened its 2015-2016 legislative session, and marijuana policy reform will be part of the discussion. Even before the session formally began, sensible proposals to reform current marijuana laws were pre-filed by both Democratic and Republican lawmakers.
Minority Leader J. Todd Rutherford has once again introduced comprehensive and compassionate medical marijuana legislation, co-sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans. The Put Patients First Act would allow seriously ill patients to possess and cultivate a limited amount of marijuana. It also creates a system of registered medical marijuana providers to ensure patients have safe and reliable access. If you’re a South Carolinian, please email your state lawmakers in support of this sensible bill.
In addition to medical marijuana, lawmakers in South Carolina will have the opportunity to replace criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession with a civil fine instead. Republican Rep. Mike Pitts introduced legislation, H. 3117, to make possession of one ounce or less punishable by a civil fine of $100-200 and prohibit law enforcement from arresting the offender.
If you are interested in getting more involved and are a person with a serious illness, doctor, nurse, clergy member, Ph.D., lawyer, or other influential member of your community, please email email@example.com.
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Marijuana laws in South Carolina
In 2012, marijuana possession arrests (as opposed to arrests for manufacture or sales) accounted for 88% of all marijuana-related arrests in South Carolina. Unfortunately, these arrests affect minority communities in South Carolina most harshly. According to the ACLU, black South Carolinians are almost three times as likely to be arrested as their white neighbors, despite similar use rates. These arrests are made at the expense of preventing and solving violent and property crimes. It is time that South Carolina reform its criminal penalties for marijuana possession to free up the necessary time and money to go after the violent criminals who cause true havoc in our communities.
You can email your legislators to ask them to change the penalty for marijuana possession to a simple fine by supporting H. 3117 or to ask them to end marijuana prohibition completely in South Carolina. If you’d like to volunteer or if you are someone with a special connection to the issue — such as a clergy member or current or past member of law enforcement — please email firstname.lastname@example.org to see how you can be of special help.
For more information on South Carolina’s marijuana arrests, usage, and other related data, please see Jon Gettman, Ph.D.’s report.