Senate Summary of South Carolina Compassionate Care Act — S. 150
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 Senate Bill 150.
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; a neurological disease or disorder (including epilepsy); sickle cell anemia; glaucoma; PTSD; autism; Crohn’s disease; ulcerative colitis; cachexia; a condition causing a person to be homebound that includes severe or persistent nausea; terminal illness; 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 standards of care.
The bill would also create a Medical Cannabis Advisory Board, which would consider petitions to add other 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.
Certifying physicians must complete a continuing medical education course on cannabis within a year of the first certification they issue or before certifying a 16th patient, whichever is first.
Before certifying patients, physicians must conduct a thorough in-person evaluation, including a history of illness, past medical history, and alcohol and substance use history.
Smoking cannabis would remain illegal, as would paraphernalia used to smoke cannabis.
Patients and caregivers would not be allowed to grow their own cannabis.
A physician may specify the amount of cannabis products their patient could obtain in each 14-day period. Or, the physician could choose to have a default limit of two ounces, 1,600 milligrams of THC in ingested products (such as edibles), 8,200 milligrams in oils for vaporization, and 4,000 milligrams in topicals.
Patients may not drive, operate a boat, train, or aircraft, or undertake any task that would be negligent or entail professional malpractice while under the influence of cannabis.
Cardholders and medical cannabis establishment staffers who break the law can have their ID cards revoked and, where applicable, face civil and/or criminal penalties.
Medical Cannabis Establishments:
After a merit-based, scored application process, DHEC will license 15 cultivation centers, 30 processing facilities, one dispensary for every 20 pharmacies in the state, five testing laboratories, and four transporters. The application review process will consider location, background and qualifications, security plans, and localities’ preferences.
Processing facilities will make products such as oils, consumable medicines, and salves.
Testing laboratories will identify the amount of cannabinoids in cannabis products and test for pesticides, bacteria, and other contaminants.
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 packaging and labeling. DHEC 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 accessible to law enforcement and DHEC.
Cannabis will be dispensed with a safety information flyer, including advice about possible risks, the need to safeguard cannabis from children, and noting federal law.
Cannabis could only be grown and processed by licensees in a secure, enclosed facility, using a seed-to sale tracking system. DHEC and SLED must approve the plans.
Medical cannabis businesses may not be located within 1,000 feet of a school, unless an exception is needed for access. DHEC must prevent an overconcentration in any area.
Law enforcement may inspect anywhere marijuana is grown, packaged, or processed.
A 24-hour secure verification system will enable law enforcement to verify ID cards.
Local Role: Localities may regulate the location, hours, and number of medical cannabis businesses. Localities may not completely prohibit dispensaries from operating in them.
Patients could apply to DHEC to designate a caregiver to assist them with the medical use of cannabis, such as by picking up their cannabis from a dispensary.
The bill protects registered patients and caregivers, medical cannabis establishment staff, state-chartered banks, attorneys, accountants, and doctors from arrest, prosecution, or penalties for actions allowed by the bill.
Registered patients are protected from discrimination in child custody disputes and eligibility for organ transplants.
Employers may continue to prohibit employees from working under the influence or using cannabis at or during work, along with enforcing a drug-free workplace policy.
Non-South Carolina residents could use medical cannabis while visiting if they: 1) are certified to use medical cannabis in their home state; 2) possess a statement from their physician certifying their medical condition qualifies under South Carolina law; and 3) submit any supporting documentation required by DHEC.
Taxation and Fees:
DHEC will determine application and registration fees for cardholders and medical cannabis businesses. The fees must be enough to cover regulatory costs.
Cannabis will be taxed at the same rate as non-prescription medications, 6%.
After covering regulatory costs, revenue will be distributed as follows: 3% for research on detecting impaired driving; 2% to drug safety education; 5% to medical cannabis research; and 90% to the General Fund.