Source: By KAREN KISSIAH,  The Cheraw Chronicle, S.C.May 27, 2014

Medical marijuana was the topic of the global discussion prompted by the Chesterfield County Coordinating Council last Friday.

State Rep. Ted Vick presided over the meeting and discussion. Vick said when he first saw the piece of legislation that may make it possible for South Carolinians to receive medical marijuana treatment, he thought it was a joke.

“But it is not,” said Vick.

State Rep. Todd Rutherford, of District 74, has introduced the bill, said Vick, and helped push to have an advisory question concerning medical marijuana added to the Democratic primary ballot for June 10.

The advisory question will help legislators “find out what the people are thinking,” said Vick.”What is the local public opinion on this issue?”

The global discussion’s goal was to sort out the facts about the medical uses of marijuana in tablet and other forms, and how that would factor into the education of children in the fight against drug abuse.

“You need to be educated on the issue, for or against,” said Vick.

Chris Bridges, pharmacist for Wannamaker Drug Store of Cheraw, attended the meeting to lend his professional knowledge to the discussion.

“From a scientific perspective, the (Food and) Drug Administration says a drug must be both safe and effective,” he said.

“Marijuana is classified to this day as a Schedule 1 drug, with potential for abuse,” said Bridges. Schedule 1 drugs are categorized as having no medical value, said Bridges.

“Cocaine is a Schedule 1 drug,” he said. “OxyContin is a Schedule 2.”

Several discussion panelists indicated they did not have a problem with marijuana in tablet form, but noted that anything, even lettuce, is harmful to the lungs when smoked.

Meagan Ard spoke on behalf of the Chesterfield County Coordinating County Youth Development Coalition. Ard said marijuana legalization undermines the programs the county has in place to help prevent young people from abusing drugs.

“Already, I have children in the schools who say marijuana cures cancer,” said Ard. “So there are a lot of misconceptions out there.”

Ard said the names of the prescriptions for medical marijuana are problematic as well.

“Names like Gold Dust, Mango Hash, Blue Dream, Green Crack and Silly Putty take away from the seriousness of the issue,” she said.

The conversation turned to include the amount of money being taken in by states that have approved recreational marijuana use. Vick was asked how much money the state might expect to gain if that were to happen in South Carolina.

“It would be in the tens of millions, I’m told,” said Vick.

Amy Brown, a member of Chesterfield Town Council and candidate for the S.C. House of Representatives in District 53, said that when it comes to the costs associated with marijuana issues “you have to look at both sides. Look at what we’re paying for prisoners serving time for marijuana offenses.”

Others in the room argued that alcohol is just as bad as marijuana, and prescription drugs are worse.

The official statement of concern issued by the Youth Coalition reads: “With marijuana use rates in the United States rising substantially since 2007, and social disapproval for using marijuana decreasing among teens in the United States since 2007, marijuana has continued to be the most commonly abused illegal drug among adults and youths in the United States. Legalization of any drug, whether for medical or recreational purposes, comes with the potential for abuse of that drug. Currently 24. 1 percent of high school students that took the S.C. state YRBS in 2011 had smoked marijuana in the past 30 days. Marijuana use has been found to higher, particularly among juveniles, in states with medical marijuana laws.”

“The issue is not going away,” said Vick, and all aspects must be considered, including the cost of de-regulation.

Many of the conversations surrounding the marijuana, “I must say, sound a lot like the arguments of prohibition days,” said Vick.

It was also mentioned that legislation to allow industrial hemp to be grown in South Carolina was recently approved and is now in effect. That, said Vick, should bring in a good amount of revenue for state farmers.

— Reach Staff Writer Karen Kissiah at 843-537-5261.

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