COLUMBIA, SC (WBTW) – Support for the legalization of medical cannabis has slowly increased over the past decade, according to multiple surveys.
A 2016 Winthrop poll found that 78% of South Carolinians were in favor of medical cannabis legalization, compared to the organization’s 2014 poll, which was 72% in favor.
A 2018 survey by Benchmark Research also found that 72% of South Carolinians were in favor of legalizing medical cannabis, with 63% of Republicans in favor.
These polls reflect what Jill Swing, president and founder of the South Carolina Compassionate Care Alliance, saw. While the issue at the federal level tended to be split between party lines – Democrats usually supportive and Republicans against – she has watched attitudes change in the politically red state.
“The biggest surge in support has been the Republicans who support it,” Swing said.
She is optimistic that the support will help medical cannabis be legalized this year. S.0150, also known as the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act, remains on the South Carolina Senate Medical Affairs Committee as of Monday.
The bill is sponsored by Senator Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, with co-sponsors from both sides of the political aisle.
That sponsorship and support, Swing said, is critical to getting a medical cannabis law passed.
Swing said Republican lawmakers have historically been concerned that introducing cannabis laws would affect their chances of re-election. That was not the case.
“In fact, they have been touted as heroes by kicking and endorsing medical cannabis legislation where they were initially seen as outliers,” she said.
Swing credits the continued approval of the advocacy, awareness, and patients who turn to their political representatives to seek their support.
According to a survey by the Pew Research Center from 2019, around two thirds of people nationwide support the legalization of cannabis. In 2010, the center found that roughly half of Americans supported legalization efforts.
Of those who took the 2019 survey, 91% said it should be legal for both medical and recreational use, 59% said it should be legal for recreational use, and 32% said it should only be for medical purposes should be legal.
Swing said that passing a bill for adult recreational use in lieu of, or in addition to, medical use could have unintended consequences, including preventing adolescents from accessing treatment and imposing high taxes on cannabis purchases, regardless whether or it is not intended for recreational or medical use.
“When you’re talking about a strictly medical program, you don’t want road funding to come on the backs of clinically ill patients,” she said.