In the United States there are 33 states where medical cannabis is legal, but NOT South Carolina, and here is the single biggest reason why:
At a recent hearing of the Medical Affairs Committee in the South Carolina Legislature where the topic was legalizing medical cannabis, Chief Mark Keel, Chief of the SC Law Enforcement Division (SLED), made the following telling statement to legislators: “It’s all about the money.”
It’s all about the money
He is right about that. It IS “all about the money.” Money is the driving force in SC’s law enforcement’s position on medical cannabis legalization. Law enforcement is not about to give up the MILLIONS of dollars it collects from alleged “drug-related” civil asset forfeitures. According to a study completed by the Greenville News (See Greenville Online article “Taken”), law enforcement legally steals about 17 million dollars every three years from South Carolina residents utilizing their Civil Asset Forfeiture program. For the most part, the people they seize money/property from are NOT big drug dealers. Often, they get pulled over and a civil asset forfeiture action begins when the officer allegedly smells the odor of cannabis. This is how about 80% of all civil asset forfeitures begin. In many cases the person stopped has his money/property seized and is never charged with a crime! How is that possible? What about the presumption of innocence, the right to a defense?
I have been a victim of civil asset forfeiture to the tune of $8,500. No ticket, no receipt, nothing. They tore my car apart, found nothing and just took my money anyway! Oh, I did get a warning for speeding 3 miles over the speed limit. “It is ALL ABOUT THE MONEY!” What Chief Keel won’t tell you is this: There are a number of states every bit as conservative and religious as South Carolina that have successful medical cannabis programs. Take Oklahoma, for instance. Oklahoma makes it inexpensive to enter the market, has a reasonable regulatory structure, and thus has a thriving new green industry that contributed $34.5 million in taxes to the state coffers in the first year. $34.5 million dollars in the first year! Do you think South Carolina schools, children’s athletic programs, etc. could use that money?
Another of Chief Keel’s objections to legal medical cannabis is the potential “diversion” of medical cannabis to the black market. The reality is that no grower/dispensary owner is going to risk his/her multi-million dollar investment by diverting product. If Chief Keel was really concerned about cannabis diversion, and not padding the law enforcement budget with millions of dollars of forfeiture money, he would have done something about black market cannabis in South Carolina years ago. Despite being illegal, cannabis has been the #3 cash crop in South Carolina for decades! Keel has not pursued it as doggedly as he has opposed legalized medical cannabis. IT IS ALL ABOUT THE MONEY!
In sum, law enforcement’s attack on a proposed medical cannabis bill is ruthless and borderline criminal. While officers fight to keep their Civil Asset Forfeiture program, veterans with PTSD commit suicide, epileptic children continue to suffer and adults in pain are forced to turn to opiates. Politicians have been taking advice from Chief Keel and Sheriffs like Kenny Boone and the other 19 or so that have been investigated for fraud, corruption, excessive use of force, sexual harassment and assault. 20 out of 46 South Carolina sheriffs have been investigated or convicted in the last few years. This makes our Sheriffs the most corrupt in the nation! Politicians are taking advice from them? REALLY?? Legislators are supposed the write the laws, cops to enforce them. In South Carolina, it is the corrupt “tail wagging the dog.”
Dan Engle is a 24 year Naval Officer veteran. Conducted Drug Interdiction Operations in South America while in the Navy. Previously, Mr. Engle owned two international businesses. He now owns legal Cannabis Farms and a cannabis consulting business. He is married with two children and one grandchild.