Veterans urge South Carolina lawmakers to pass medical marijuana bill

South Carolina News

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTW) — State and local groups supporting the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act say medical marijuana can save veteran lives.

Right now the bill is in the hands of the state and some veterans are urging lawmakers to pass it.

“The beauty of cannabis is that it’s rapid on-set and it’s rapid alleviation of how survivors of PTSD call pain. That pain is all encompassing,” said Don Howell, U.S. Navy veteran and registered nurse.

Emotional, physical, and psychological pain the trauma of combat can bring. Some veterans in South Carolina are using marijuana illegally to treat PTSD, severe anxiety, and sleep deprivation.

“It is unbelievable to me that South Carolina considers me and thousands of other veterans, my brothers and sisters, criminals for treating our pain and saving our lives,” said J.S., a U.S. Army veteran who wishes to remain anonymous.

Advocate groups say many veterans resort to opioid prescriptions provided by doctors.

Former U.S. Naval Officer and Emmy Award-winning TV personality, Montel Williams, says he quickly became addicted to his prescription pills.

Williams says he tried medical marijuana in 2002 and it helped kick his dependency on opioids. He’s worked to legalize medical use in several state since.

“The first time I tried it I’d gotten my first restful night of sleep in 20 years and some of the other symptoms that I had from [multiple sclerosis] literally were eased by 80% to 90%,” Williams said.

Williams also has a daughter who lives in South Carolina who has had two bad bouts of cancer, taking her out of state to receive medical marijuana for pain relief.

Every three days, a veteran in South Carolina takes their own life. Supporters of the bill argue medical marijuana can save veteran lives and curb the statistic.

“Veterans fight for this country and continue to come home and fight for us. We just need those lawmakers to do a little fighting for them,” said David Newsom, U.S. Army veteran and director of governmental affairs for Compassionate South Carolina.

Senators proposing the bill say medical marijuana would be tightly regulated, if passed, allowing up to 14 days of medicine when prescribed by a doctor.

It would also be required to be taken orally by oil and vape or applied topically on the skin.

Supporters say the biggest challenge the bill is facing is gaining the support of law enforcement.

Adding that heavy tax of the medicine often helps expand police departments in areas where medical use is legal.

“You have 36 states including Arkansas, Louisiana, and Utah where these laws are working well and protecting the seriously ill and are not causing law enforcement problems,” said Karen O’Keefe director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project.

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