House Summary of South Carolina Compassionate Care Act — H. 3361
The S.C. Compassionate Care Act would create a well-regulated medical cannabis program to allow seriously ill individuals to use and safely access medical cannabis when recommended by their physicians. Thirty-six states — including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, and Louisiana — give their residents this medical freedom.
Here are key provisions of House Bill 3361.
Qualifying for the Program: To qualify, patients must have at least one qualifying medical condition and a written certification issued by a physician with whom they have a bona fiderelationship. Patients must apply to the health department (DHEC) for a registration card.
The bill’s qualifying conditions are: cancer; multiple sclerosis; neurological disease or disorder — including epilepsy; sickle cell anemia; autism; chronic pain; glaucoma; PTSD;Crohn’s disease; ulcerative colitis; cachexia or wasting syndrome; severe or persistentnausea; a terminal illness with less than a year to live; a condition causing severe andpersistent muscle spasms; or a condition for which opiates are or could be prescribed.Physicians could also recommend medical cannabis for any condition that the physicianfinds is debilitating to the individual patient that the doctor is qualified to treat.
The bill would also create a Medical Cannabis Advisory Board, which would considerpetitions to add serious conditions to the program.
If the patient is expected to recover within a year, or no longer needs cannabis, the physician must make a notation so their ID expires earlier.
Physicians: Physicians who recommend medical cannabis to 15 or more patients must takea three-hour continuing medical education course approved by the state.
Patients may not drive, operate a boat, train, or aircraft, or undertake any task thatwould be negligent while under the influence of cannabis.
Patients and caregivers are not allowed to grow their own cannabis.
A patient may purchase or possess no more than two ounces of dried cannabis (and theequivalent amount of topical or consumable products) every 14 days.
Cardholders and medical cannabis establishment staffers who violate the law can have their ID cards revoked or suspended and, where applicable, face civil and/or criminal penalties.
Medical Cannabis Establishments: After a merit-based, scored application process, DHECwill license and regulate 15 cultivation centers, 30 processing facilities, and one dispensary for every 20 pharmacies in the state, in addition to five independent testing laboratories and four transporters. The application review process will consider location, background and qualifications, security plans (and SLED’s input on them), and localities’ preferences.
Safeguards and Security:
DHEC will create regulations, including for seed-to-sale tracking, odor mitigation, recordkeeping, oversight, security, health and safety, transportation, employee training,capital requirements, and safe packaging and labeling. It will also restrict advertising, logos, and signage and ensure businesses have discreet, medical appearances.Cultivation centers’ security must include perimeter intrusion detection systems and a 24-hour surveillance system.
Cannabis will be dispensed with a safety information flyer, including advice about possible risks and the need to safeguard cannabis from children.
Cannabis could only be grown and processed by licensees in a secure, enclosed facility, using a seed-to-sale tracking system.
Medical cannabis businesses may not be located within 1,000 feet of a school, unless it is demonstrated that an exception is needed for adequate access.
Regulators could inspect anywhere marijuana is grown, packaged, or processed.
A 24-hour verification system will enable law enforcement to verify ID cards.
Local Role: Local governments may regulate the location, hours of operation, and number of medical cannabis establishments in the locality. However, they may not completelyprohibit dispensaries.
Patients could apply to the DHEC to designate a caregiver to assist them with the medical use of cannabis, such as by picking up their cannabis from a dispensary.
Patients who aren’t South Carolina residents — but who are certified to use medical cannabis in another state — qualify for legal protections if they have a medicalcondition included in South Carolina’s law. They could only purchase cannabis in South Carolina if they register with DHEC.
The bill protects registered patients and caregivers, medical cannabis establishment agents, financial institutions, attorneys, accountants, and doctors fromarrest, prosecution, or penalties for actions allowed by the bill.
Registered patients are protected from discrimination in child custody disputes andeligibility for organ transplants.
Employers could continue to prohibit employees from working under the influence or using cannabis at or during work. Private employers will not be required to change their policies related to drug testing.
Taxation and Fees:
DHEC will set application and licensing fees to cover regulatory costs.
Cannabis will be taxed at the same rate as non-prescription medications, 6%.
Revenue will be distributed as follows: 3% to improving DUI detection, 2% to drug safety education, 5% to medical cannabis research, and 90% to the General Fund.