South Carolina Faith Leaders Strongly Urge Legislature to Pass Medical Cannabis Law

In a statement delivered to lawmakers Wednesday, the group of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim clergy members said they ‘object to patients being treated like criminals’ and believe ‘those who could benefit from medical cannabis should have safe, legal, and reliable access to it’

South Carolina faith leaders sent state lawmakers a strong message in support of medical cannabis legislation Wednesday. In a statement delivered to every member of the House and Senate, more than a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim clergy members “strongly urge[d] the Legislature to adopt a well-regulated medical cannabis program this year.”

“As clergy, we are committed to improving the lives of those around us through healing, mercy, and compassion,” the statement reads. “Therefore, we cannot remain silent while members of our community struggling with debilitating medical conditions are deprived of an effective treatment option.”

The statement was released at a news conference in the Capitol Rotunda, at which many of the signatories gathered around a sign reading, “Healing. Mercy. Compassion. Faith Leaders SUPPORT the Compassionate Care Act.”

The Compassionate Care Act, sponsored by Sen. Tom Davis in the Senate (S0366) and Rep. Peter McCoy in the House (H3660), would establish a comprehensive medical cannabis program in South Carolina.

“The Compassionate Care Act has the potential to improve the quality of life for countless patients and families across South Carolina,” said Rep. Terry Alexander, pastor of Wayside Chapel Baptist Church in Florence, who spoke at the news conference. “Our most afflicted and vulnerable neighbors need help, and many of them cannot wait much longer for relief. Enacting a compassionate medical cannabis law is the right thing to do, and now is the right time to do it.”

The statement notes medical cannabis “provid[es] significant medical benefits to patients suffering from a wide range of serious illnesses” and “offers many patients a safer alternative to prescription medications, such as narcotic pain relievers.”

“People struggling with serious illnesses and severe pain are our brothers and sisters,” said the Rev. Jeremy Rutledge of Charleston, who spoke at the news conference Wednesday. “Making medical marijuana available to them is a response of compassion and mercy. There is a religious element. It’s trying to help our neighbor.”

Other speakers at the event included Rep. Ivory Thigpen, a Baptist pastor in Columbia; Rabbi Eric Mollo of Charleston; and Rev. Alexander Sharp of Clergy for a New Drug Policy, which is rallying clergy nationwide in support of sensible medical cannabis legislation. 

“A growing chorus of South Carolina voices is speaking out in support” for legal access to medical cannabis, the faith leaders said. “We proudly stand with them, and we hope you will join us all in standing up for our friends, family, and loved ones who need help.” A strong, bipartisan majority of South Carolinians favor legalizing medical marijuana. A Benchmark Research poll released last month found 72 percent in support, including 84 percent of Democrats, 78 percent of independents, and 63 percent of Republicans.

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