BEAUFORT COUNTY, SC (WSAV) – For seven years, medical cannabis legislation has been in front of lawmakers.

Now a Lowcountry State Senator believes this is the year medical marijuana will become legal in South Carolina.

State Senator Tom Davis has been working on a version of the Compassionate Care Act, which would legalize medical marijuana for almost a decade.

He says the bill, already in 36 states, is polling at more than 70% approval in the state, and pre-filed in both the SC House and Senate, is designed not to get people “high” but to “help” people who need it.

“The bill has been thoroughly vetted,” said Senator Davis. “It’s been looked at by the SC Medical Association. It has been looked at by law enforcement. We have a very good tightly regulated medical cannabis bill, and what it seeks to do is empower physicians. If a physician has a patient with a certain condition for which there has been evidence that medical marijuana can be effective, that we want to empower that doctor to give that patient what that patient needs to get relief whether it’s chronic pain, Cerebral Palsy, or Multiple Sclerosis.”

Davis believes the bill would have passed in 2020 before the session was shut down by COVID-19. Now he’s gotten more feedback from SLED Chief Mark Keel, who is not in favor of legalizing any form of marijuana. The feedback has made this a better bill.

“Every time they have come to the table with constructive suggestions we have listened because I want a very conservative bill,” said Davis. “I want a bill that is going to be a template for any state that says look we want to empower our doctors to what’s in the best interest of our patients but not get on the slippery slope to recreational use.”

Patients like Margaret Richardson.

“I was diagnosed with a condition called trigeminal neuralgia in 2014 it’s a neurological condition. It’s as if a bunsen burner has been turned on in the side of your head,” explains Richardson.

“The pain is blinding, its knocks you to the floor, you scream out loud,” said Margaret Richardson.

She was given opioids to help with the pain for the first four months.

“After those four months I couldn’t get out of bed, I looked like a skeleton.”

A year later she had surgery which gave her three years of relief. Then the condition flared up again.

“I was hold up at a cabin Thanksgiving weekend,” Richardson remembers. “I couldn’t stand it. I said I can’t take this pain any longer.”

That’s when she reached for the medical grade marijuana someone had given her.

“I took a vape pen of medical cannabis. I slept for 13 hours and because of the medicinal properties of cannabis. It mitigated the inflammation in my nerves in my face and my head.”

When it came to the benefits of medical cannabis, Richardson found out she was far from alone when it came to extolling its virtues.

“I’ve met cancer patients who had their nausea calmed. It helped them get through chemo. If they are dying, then they can be with their family instead of an unconscious zombie in the bed.”

“I met a grandmother who saved everything to move her grandson to Colorado to get her grandson medical marijuana because he couldn’t get it here.”

Now not just a patient, Richardson has become an advocate herself for the benefits of cannabis.

“I worry every time I get on a plane because if I can’t take it I can have a flare on the plane and am in terrible pain so it could knock me over. If I do take it I could be arrested.”

“The benefits are great. It is a very low-risk low-cost option for those of us who don’t want to be cut on anymore. Who don’t know where they will be when they have a terrible flare and you suffer the embarrassment of screaming out loud, in front of people and hope you are with people who understand. and that you can run and hide and take your medical cannabis. “

“I’ll be grateful to those who wield the vote, who are willing to open their hearts to serve all of us who need it, and I’ll feel also like I can live again,” said Richardson. “I can get on a plane, I can go somewhere, when you are dealing with a debilitating condition, the stress and strain you deal with currently in this state will be eliminated, it will be a great day in the state of South Carolina.”

Bluffton Representative Bill Herbkersman is now sponsoring the Compassionate Care act on the South Carolina House floor.

This is the first time Rep. Herbkersman has served as the lead sponsor in the House. Rep. Herbkersman has cited his late brother’s experience finding relief from medical cannabis as he was stricken with cancer as a motivation for sponsoring the bill.

Davis says both sides could take this proposal to the committee and then to the House and Senate floor for a vote as early as next month.