When was the last time we needed South Carolina legislation for a medicine to be prescribed by a doctor or dispensed by a pharmacy? When medicine goes through the normal FDA approval process, a state law is not necessary.
But that’s not what we are dealing with when discussing marijuana. Doctors cannot legally prescribe it. Pharmacists cannot legally dispense it. There is no way to accurately dose it. Rather, the 55-page medical marijuana bill in the S.C. Senate is an attempt to legislate around the FDA approval process by creating a complex scheme to cultivate, process and dispense marijuana that still violates federal law.
The bill ultimately would allow people to vape, eat or ingest marijuana that has not had any traditional medical review and is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This is a truly dangerous proposition. Perhaps this is why 77% of South Carolinians said marijuana should be regulated by the FDA in a 2016 Winthrop poll.
It is not surprising that many proponents of the bill use words like “prescribe” when discussing marijuana. They do this to make us think this will be handled like all other prescription medications. But this narrative is simply false. The marijuana allowed in this bill remains a Schedule 1 drug, which means that under federal law, it cannot be legally prescribed, cannot be legally dispensed by a pharmacy and cannot be legally possessed by individuals without violating federal law.
In medical marijuana states, dispensaries with no in-house medical professionals pop up in neighborhoods selling marijuana products with unknown potency, with no dosing instructions and with flashy names designed to appeal to children. It is truly reprehensible the lengths that some of these companies will go to target our youth with these dangerous products.
This is particularly true with vape products, edibles and oils, all of which would be legalized under the S.C. legislation. In many cases, vape cartridges, oils and edible products contain unreasonably small serving sizes mixed with incredibly high percentages of THC. This is extremely dangerous, especially for our children, our most vulnerable.
In South Carolina and throughout the country, marijuana is the No. 1 reason for addiction and treatment admission for minors between 12 and 17 years old. I have spent my 43 years in law enforcement standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. This is why I have consistently voiced my concerns about legalizing marijuana in any form.
Of course, I am compassionate to those who are suffering from debilitating diseases and illnesses. That is why I support continued clinical trials, research and forms of medicine that are legally obtained, FDA approved, prescribed by a physician and dispensed by a pharmacist. This is what medicine is in the 21st century.
This bill does not follow that model, which is why, in my opinion, it is not about medicine. It’s about legalizing marijuana in South Carolina.
Mark Keel is chief of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division.