COLUMBIA — The South Carolina Democratic primary ballot in June will ask voters whether they support legalizing medical marijuana to treat severe illnesses.
House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford said Wednesday he wanted it on the ballot so the Legislature’s Republican leaders could see what voters think of the issue.
He has proposed legislation allowing patients certified by a doctor as suffering a debilitating illness to use marijuana. Last week, the House rejected his effort to attach it to a bill allowing patients with severe epilepsy to legally possess nonpsychoactive cannabidiol, known as CBD oil, which is derived from marijuana.
That limited bill, sponsored by Republicans, passed the chamber 90-24, a week after the Senate passed a similar – but even more restrictive – version.
While the House defeated Rutherford’s amendment, legislators of both parties encouraged him to re-introduce his measure next year. Patients it would allow to use marijuana include those suffering from cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and chronic pain.
“I don’t know how we can continue to deprive families of what many consider miracle medicine,” said Rutherford, D-Columbia. Let’s “put patients in the hands of a doctor, not the Legislature.”
The advisory question on medical marijuana is among five asked on the Republican and Democratic ballots June 10. Two others on the Democratic ballot deal with gambling.
Republican voters will be asked about abortion and eliminating the state income tax. The state Election Commission gave the parties until noon Wednesday to submit their questions.
The agency charged the state GOP Party $2,500 and the Democratic party a $3,500 fee for adding the questions to their ballots, said agency spokesman Chris Whitmire.
How voters respond to primary questions do not necessarily translate to legislative action. But they are traditionally a way to get voters to the polls.