Legislative Update: Several bills move from the House to the Senate

Most of the bills we are tracking for this session have cleared the House and are now awaiting action in the South Carolina Senate.

The exception would be the Compassionate Care Act (S150, Medical Marijuana). S150 originated in the Senate, has cleared the committee process, and is now awaiting debate and a vote by the full Senate. The good news about this bill is that it missed the April 9 “crossover” deadline and, therefore, will not be taken up by the House during this session. Several senators have expressed deep concern over this bill, and they are slowing down its progress. They are being assisted by the fact that the Senate is now debating the budget, a process that will likely extend to the end of April. This means we have time to continue to point out the very bad consequences of this bill.

The so-called medical marijuana is not FDA-approved and cannot be prescribed by a doctor or dispensed by a pharmacist. The bill prohibits smoking but allows vaping. It prohibits users from consuming more than two ounces every 14 days, but it provides no tracking mechanism — allowing users to purchase marijuana from multiple locations without being detected.

S150 requires the user to have an ongoing “bona fide physician/patient relationship,” but it sets no requirements for how often a user should be re-evaluated. In other words, once a doctor “recommendation” is acquired, the user can consume marijuana at whatever rate they feel is appropriate. Remember, according to federal law, marijuana is an illegal narcotic. There are more regulations in place for most blood pressure medicine than will be in place for “medical marijuana.”

Also, the bipartisan U.S. Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control released a report concerning the effects of marijuana on March 3 of this year. Below are just a few of the negative findings on marijuana use:

• No amount of marijuana is safe for adolescents (age 10 to 24).

• Marijuana-impaired drivers threaten public safety, yet no universal detection standards exist.

• Vaping marijuana is linked to EVALI (e-cigarette or vaping-use-associated injury).

• One in nine users of marijuana will become addicted.

• 30 percent of marijuana users have a marijuana-use disorder.

• Research shows that marijuana has negative impacts on lifelong achievement, including lower educational attainment and less financial stability.

Several other bills we are tracking have passed the House and are currently moving through the subcommittee process in the Senate. 

S38, the REACH Act — which would require the study of the U.S. Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and the Declaration of Independence as a prerequisite for graduation from high school — would also require institutions of higher education to provide a three credit-hour course covering the same founding documents. The REACH Act was amended by the House and will be sent back to the Senate for final passage. 

A newly drafted Save Women’s Sports bill (H4153) was approved by the House Special Laws Subcommittee and is now being considered by the full Judiciary committee. The goal — since the original bill was tabled, making passage impossible during this session — is to have the bill ready to go early in January 2022. 

The House passed an “open carry” bill on a 73-26 vote (H3094), that would allow concealed weapons permit holders to openly carry under limited circumstances, and a “constitutional carry” bill (H3096) on a 69-47 vote, that would allow much broader freedom for individuals to carry a firearm. Both bills are now awaiting hearings in Senate subcommittees. 

The Clementa C. Pinckney Hate Crimes Act (H3620) passed the House on a 71 to 28 vote, with sexual orientation and transgender listed as protected classes, and is now in the subcommittee process in the Senate. Several senators have said they will block its passage if the LGBTQ+ language is not removed through the amendment process. 

Please pray for wisdom for our legislators as we head into the home stretch of South Carolina’s 2021 Legislative Session. Time is running out for our legislators to hear from you on all of these bills. Please go to www.scstatehouse.gov to find information on your state senator or house member and reach out to them today.

— Tony Beam is senior director of Church and Community Engagement at North Greenville University and director of Public Policy for the South Carolina Baptist Convention.

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