What is the SC Compassionate Care Act?

The Compassionate Care Act, which would legalize medical marijuana in SC, albeit with one of the most restrictive marijuana laws in the country, is waiting for a vote in both the SC House (H.3361) and the SC Senate (S.150).

Will it pass?

Don’t hold your breath – versions of bills that would legalize marijuana for medical or recreational purposes have been pending in SC’s legislature for many years. This year could be different, though, as more than half of the county has now legalized the plant.

What would the Compassionate Care Act legalize if passed into law? And what are the criminal penalties under the proposed law?

What Would the Compassionate Care Act Allow?

First, understand that the Compassionate Care Act does not legalize marijuana. Not even for medical purposes. How much marijuana would the Compassionate Care Act allow patients to possess? None

Persons with a “debilitating medical condition” would be permitted to use tinctures, oils, or edibles, but the proposed law does not permit anyone to possess or smoke actual, real marijuana.

Who is Allowed to Have Marijuana?

Medical cannabis (not in smokable form) could be prescribed to individuals by a qualified physician if they are “diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition and… the potential benefits of using medical cannabis products outweigh any risks.”

What is a debilitating medical condition? It could mean:

  • Cancer,
  • Multiple sclerosis,
  • A neurological disease like epilepsy,
  • Glaucoma,
  • PTSD (but the patient must prove that they have experienced one or more traumatic events),
  • Crohn’s disease,
  • Sickle cell anemia,
  • Ulcerative colitis,
  • Cachexia or wasting syndrome,
  • Autism,
  • Severe or persistent nausea,
  • Chronic medical conditions with severe and persistent muscle spasms,
  • Chronic or debilitating diseases for which an opioid would otherwise be prescribed for severe pain,
  • Terminal illness with a life expectancy of one year or less, or
  • Other serious medical conditions as added by the Medical Cannabis Board.

If you qualify, how much marijuana would you be allowed to possess?

Allowable Amounts

Again, no marijuana. This law would not legalize medical cannabis, only cannabis products that contain THC.

An allowable amount of “medical cannabis” would include, for a fourteen-day period:

  • Cannabis products for topical administration like lotions, creams, or ointments that contain no more than 4000 mg of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol,
  • Cannabis products for “oral administration” like oils, tinctures, capsules, or edibles that contain no more than 1600 mg of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol,
  • Cannabis oils for vaping that contain no more than 8200 mg of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or
  • An equivalent amount for other modes of delivery as determined by the department.

“An equivalent amount for other modes of delivery” does not mean they are leaving the door open for patients to smoke their medicine because there is a specific clause defining penalties for cardholders who possess actual marijuana…

Criminal Penalties Under the Compassionate Care Act

The Compassionate Care Act creates several new crimes for possession of, prescription of, distribution of, or unlawful obtaining of marijuana or cannabis products.

For example, it would be unlawful for a physician to “certify cannabis products for the purpose of smoking or burning,” and it would be a crime for a cardholder to possess marijuana in plant form or to possess a pipe or other paraphernalia for smoking.

The crimes and infractions that would be created under the Compassionate Care Act include:

  • A physician who certifies cannabis products for the purpose of smoking (no penalty specified),
  • A patient who possesses an ounce or less of marijuana would be punishable by a civil fine of up to $500 for a first offense (a lesser penalty than a person who is not a cardholder) and up to 30 days and revocation of the person’s marijuana card for a second offense,
  • Lying to a law enforcement officer about anything “relating to the medical use of cannabis products to avoid arrest or prosecution” would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to $1000 per offense in addition to any other penalties for making a false statement to law enforcement or for possession of marijuana,
  • Knowingly making a false statement about a medical condition to a physician to get a card would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to $1000 per offense,
  • “Diverting” or selling cannabis products to a non-cardholder would be a felony punishable by up to five years in prison, and
  • A cardholder who fails to notify the Department within 30 days of a change in name, address, email, or telephone number or that they no longer have a debilitating medical condition would be punished by a fine of up to $500 per occurrence.

Offenses that could get your card revoked include:

  • Selling cannabis products or a conviction for any criminal offense under the Compassionate Care Act,
  • Driving while under the influence of marijuana or refusing “a properly requested test” related to driving – we can only assume this is a reference to the implied consent laws, although it is not specific, and
  • Violating any provisions of the Compassionate Care Act or Department regulations related to the Compassionate Care Act.

In sum, the Compassionate Care Act would not legalize marijuana in SC, but it would allow physicians to prescribe cannabis products that contain THC when the patient has a qualifying debilitating medical condition.

Questions About Marijuana Laws in SC?

If you have been charged with a drug crime or believe you are under investigation in SC, get a local criminal defense attorney with over twenty years of trial experience on your side as soon as possible.

Contact criminal defense Lawyer Johnny Gardner today for a free consultation to find out how we can help.