Nation

Medical marijuana bill in South Carolina bolstered by conservatives

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Two decades after California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana, efforts to let patients legally access the drug are gaining in South Carolina with the help of conservative lawmakers.

While 28 states allow comprehensive medical marijuana programs, only two of those are in the South. Arkansas and Florida voters approved theirs through the ballot last November. Neither is in place yet.

A law signed in Louisiana last year, also not yet in effect, doesn’t allow the smoking or vaping of marijuana.

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This year’s renewed push in South Carolina is bolstered by some of the state’s most conservative legislators, whose opinions have shifted because of personal losses or the pleadings of parents and pastors in their districts.

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State Representative Eric Bedingfield once shunned marijuana use, but when his eldest son’s struggle with opioid addiction ended with his overdose, the conservative Republican cosponsored medical cannabis legislation.

The 50-year-old teetotaler believes marijuana may effectively wean addicts from an opioid dependence.

A bill allowing people with a debilitating medical condition, or their adult caregivers, to legally possess 2 ounces of marijuana advanced last month to the House’s full medical committee.