The literal translation is “without day,” but the meaning is “without assigning a future date for a meeting or hearing.” Yesterday was the day our state legislature calls “sine die” which signals the last day of the regular session for the year. At the Statehouse, it was an intense day of brokering last-minute compromises between the House and Senate with bills being sent back and forth for concurrence or to be sent into conference committees.
But for me, it was a day of reflection.
For six years I’ve made the trek to Columbia to meet with lawmakers, share my daughter’s story, provide insight and education on the medical benefits of cannabis and urge our legislative body to pass a comprehensive medical cannabis bill to benefit patients in South Carolina. For six years I’ve continued to watch my daughter have hundreds of seizures a day with no answers from her doctors. For six years I’ve talked to probably hundreds of other South Carolina patients who also desperately want and need medical cannabis to help elevate their debilitating symptoms. For six years I have watched as many South Carolina families have had to make the difficult decision to make a costly move to another state that provides legal access to medical cannabis in order to save themselves or a loved one, leaving behind jobs, family, friends and much-needed support systems. These people are not criminals. They do not want to break the law, so they move someplace where they can have safe access to the medication they need. Then there are those who have no choice but to stay. They are forced to choose between treating illegally, buying their medication from the streets without knowing what’s in it, what it might be laced with while living in fear of arrest or having their children taken away from them for trying to save their lives. As I have stated many times before “the black market is no place to buy your child’s medication.” In six years, aside from 2014, which brought the passage of the CBD bill, the South Carolina General Assembly has repeatedly failed to act on medical cannabis legislation. Despite pleas from patients, physicians stepping up to express their desires to have access to medical cannabis for their patients and despite more and more advocacy organizations and lobbyists joining the fight, the South Carolina General Assembly just can’t seem to let go of old stigmas and follow what 34 other states have already done by creating a program that will provide safe access to medical cannabis for patients suffering from truly debilitating conditions.
Despite the hours and hours of education, I still continue to hear some of the most uneducated comments coming from our lawmakers and other elected officials. The most profoundly stupid comment came from our own state Attorney General Alan Wilson, who declared at an opposition press conference earlier this year that “Marijuana is the most dangerous drug in America…” I continue to hear comments about the need for FDA approval, which is not even possible based on their protocols and requirements. I continue to hear that marijuana is a “gateway drug” to harder substances. My own Senator, Sandy Senn, really demonstrated her lack of knowledge when she stated during the last Medical Affairs Committee meeting that she didn’t support vaping of cannabis but thought it should be delivered by a nebulizer in order to obtain exact dosing. She also stated she was a “hard no” on the bill as long as conditions that could easily be faked such as PTSD and chronic pain (or even Opioid substitution, as the current bill allows) were included as qualifying conditions. With all of the continued lack of education and so many unanswered questions from Committee members, I guess it’s not surprising that the bill didn’t even make it out of Committee this year.
So, I guess the fight will confine in 2020.
And, although I sound a bit melancholy over the whole thing, it hasn’t all been bad. In the past six years of advocacy, I have had the wonderful fortune of meeting some of the most extraordinary people with whom I have formed lasting friendships. These include some of the most courageous lawmakers who have fought the stigma and stepped up to passionately fight for the needs of patients in our state. I have also had the fortune of working with and been counseled by very knowledgeable industry partners from both within and outside of South Carolina. But the greatest blessing to me personally has been the opportunity to work with so many incredible patient advocates across the state. We have shared stories, cheered over small victories, lifted each other up during setbacks and cried on each other’s shoulders at the loss of a loved one for whom medical cannabis could have brought relief. All of them are warriors, themselves.
I will be back up at the Statehouse next year, once again urging our law makers to finally pass the SC Compassionate Care Act and bring much-needed alternative medicine to those suffering from debilitating diseases. But each year I return with greater determination, as I carry with me even more stories, more experience, and a greater conviction that what I am doing is right and that we will prevail.
God Bless and see you in 2020!