South Carolina Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Bill Amid Hemp Labeling Controversy

Zinger Key Points
  • A highly restrictive medical marijuana legalization bill passed the Senate in a 24-19 vote and is heading to the House for consideration. 
  • “The real challenge now is getting the bill through the House process,” said Sen. Tom Davis (R).
  • The Department of Health and Environmental released controversial guidelines on hemp-derived product labeling. 

The South Carolina Senate advanced the medical marijuana legalization bill in a 24-19 vote Wednesday, sending it to the House for consideration. 

The Compassionate Care Act, or S 0423, is considered one of the most restrictive medical marijuana legalization measures, as it prohibits smoking cannabis for medical use, favoring topicals, tinctures, vaporizers and edibles. If the bill becomes law, South Carolina would become the 39th in the nation to legalize medicinal marijuana. 

"The real challenge now is getting the bill through the House process," said Sen. Tom Davis (R), reports South Carolina Public Radio. Davis was a sponsor of a similar bill that passed the Senate in February 2022 but was shot down by the House in May that same year. The legislation was eliminated on a technicality regarding sales tax

Then in 2023, a similar action happened when the S.C. Compassionate Care Act stalled in a Senate subcommittee. Senator Stephen Goldfinch (R) told ABC that this year’s version of the bill removed a revenue-raising component, which was cited as one of the main reasons the measure died last year. 

One of the most conservative medical marijuana bills in the nation, S 0423, would allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana only to patients that have one or more of the following debilitating medical conditions: cancer, multiple sclerosis, a neurological disorder such as epilepsy, PTSD, Chron's disease, sickle cell anemia, ulcerative colitis, cachexia or wasting syndrome, autism, severe nausea, severe muscle spasms and "any chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition for which an opioid is currently or could be prescribed by a physician based on generally accepted standards of care." 

See Also: South Carolina’s Medical Marijuana Bill Prohibits Smoking, Limiting Economic Growth Of Industry

"It is incumbent upon us to provide a means whereby people can access medicine (cannabis) safely, under a doctor's care with a pharmacist dispensing it, with knowledge that it is safe. It is our job to do that," Davis said.

Compassionate Care Act is sponsored by senators Davis, Goldfinch, Brad Hutto (D), Lawrence K. “Larry” Grooms (R), Marlon E. Kimpson (D), Gerald Malloy (D), Mia S. McLeod (Independent), Daniel B. “Danny” Verdin III (R), Mike Fanning (D), Penry Gustafson (R), Katrina Frye Shealy (R), and Deon T. Tedder (D). 

Hemp Labeling Controversy 

Meanwhile, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental (DHEC) recently released new guidelines on hemp-derived product labeling that have caused controversy around the industry, reports WCBD-TV Charleston. 

Per DHEC's last month letter, labels can't contain any "health claims and may not bear any sort of declaration of "THC", "CBD", or "Delta-9" products or isolates." 

"Labels and packaging shall not contain references to "THC," "CBD," or "Delta-9" products, or isolates, as this implies the product is no longer a food item, but a drug and is unlawful; except the following optional statement may be included on product labels and/or packaging, ‘Full Spectrum Hemp Oil/Extract used is legal per USDA Farm Bill and contains 0.3% Delta 9 THC or less.' This is not required since the hemp product ingredient added is at 0.3% or below, so is legal," the letter reads. 

Furthermore, the Department warns against dosage labeling: "the labels, packaging, and advertising of finished food or beverage products containing approved hemp products as ingredients may not contain dosage instructions (i.e., "10 MGTHC") as this gives the impression not of a food or beverage, but of an illegal drug, or a food or beverage that has been poisoned by THC." 

High Rise Beverage Co., a Charleston-based hemp-derived cannabis beverage manufacturer temporarily halted its operations due to the confusion over new label requirements. The company is unable to precisely label its products following new guidance. It is "early" awaiting to resume its business activities when "there is complete accord with the new regulatory requisites."

Senator Tedder, also expressed concerns about new guidelines, "I have been closely monitoring the impact of DHEC's Januar 22nd letter restricting labeling of hemp-derived ingredients in food products. This action has caused confusion and disruption within the hemp industry, which has responsibly adhered to federal regulations and accurately represented its products," Tedder wrote in a letter addressed to DHEC Director Dr. Edward Simmer.

Photo: Benzinga edit with images by Clker-Free-Vector-Images via Pixabay, Stephen Cobb and Budding via Unsplash 

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Posted In: CannabisNewsCompassionate Care ActS 0423South Carolina cannabisSouth Carolina Hemp LabelingSouth Carolina Medical MarijuanaSouth Carolina THCStephen GoldfinchTom Davis
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