Many residents of the Palmetto State would be surprised to learn that we won't be the last state in the country to legalize marijuana. It's a fact. In 2014, the legislature passed a very strict bill that allowed a marijuana derived medicine to be used for a very specific type of epilepsy. However, South Carolina is looking to step up its game in the cultural revolution with the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act (S.212).
States around the country are finally recovering from the 1936 propaganda film Reefer Madness and marijuana is being treated as the all-natural super plant that it is instead of the highly addictive drug that causes people to commit rape, murder, and suicide as was depicted in the film. While it took a couple of decades for people to stop murdering great white sharks because of Peter Benchley's Jaws, many Americans, especially conservatives, cling to the idea that a plant can be evil more than 80 years after Reefer Madness was released. This is why the Compassionate Care Act is so extraordinary.
In a state that squirms at anything resembling progressivism, movement on marijuana has been a concept that existed beside flying cars and robot maids named Rosie. However, S.212 is being sponsored by actual conservatives! Unlike the 2014 legislation, it looks to get with the cultural times, although it would be among the most strict medical marijuana laws in the country if passed. However, to pass the Medical Affairs Committee, legislators had to overcome the same Reefer Madness -inspired arguments from people like Mark Keel of the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) who have vested interests in the monumental failure known as the "war on drugs."
It is easy to understand why many law enforcement leaders would continue to villainize a simple plant. As long as marijuana remains an illegal drug, there are many more "criminals" to justify the ridiculous amounts of funding law enforcement agencies receive to combat drugs and build prisons. Furthermore, it is so much easier to detect marijuana than other processed, manufactured drugs. Because police can simply claim to detect an odor, they often have easier access to searching property and finding real issues. In this way, it truly is a "gateway drug," but it's a gateway for police.
One of Keel's stated concerns was for the "black market" that would develop as a result of medicinal marijuana. This is silly because currently, pretty much all marijuana in the state is black market. It doesn't change his job or any other officer's. Furthermore, his concern is really an argument for the recreational legalization of marijuana: destroy the black market. If we can wrap our heads around the idea that marijuana is only a drug because of a definition we selfishly invented, then we can ask why Reefer Madness is still dictating how we manage this miracle plant.
S.212 acknowledges many of the medicinal benefits of marijuana, a list which grows ceaselessly. Opponents tend to have selfish interests such as government funding for law enforcement. The pharmaceutical industry makes billions manufacturing more expensive, more addictive, and deadlier alternatives. However, a plant that grows in your backyard that can do many of the same things without side-effects is like a cancer to Big Pharma (pun intended). There is little, if any, real logic to denying the medical use of marijuana to patients in any state.
If we can acknowledge that marijuana is just a plant with an amazing list of medicinal and health benefits, then why is it so hard to accept recreationally? I realize the fear of recreational legalization is what prevents many states from taking the medicinal step. But what is wrong with that?
Marijuana is the dreaded "gateway" drug because you have to get it from drug dealers who sell lots of other stuff. Drop that argument. When you compare it to something like alcohol, there is no contest that marijuana is a much safer substance. Yet, legislators have no problem drinking wine and beer. We won't even get started on cigarettes. Frankly, there are mushrooms growing in your backyard that will make you wish you were dead in a matter of hours because of the stomach pains, including some that will kill you. Yet, the government is not on a mission to extinguish these natural menaces in the name of public health. That's because it is not a real issue. Neither is marijuana.
Marijuana should be completely legalized across the board and across the country. It is just a plant. When used medicinally, it provides relief and healing to so many people with so many ailments. Recreationally, it provides relaxation and entertainment with a fraction of the consequences of legal alternatives like alcohol and tobacco, while creating huge streams of tax revenue.
It's time we put Reefer Madness on the shelf and enjoy the release of Super Troopers 2 on April 20 in harmony. What do you say?
Ali was born in Greenville, S.C. but grew up in High Point, N.C. where he studied English/Writing at High Point University. He has called Charleston home since 2006 and wants to believe Bigfoot is real.