Pot legalization questions stir debate among S.C. Republicans

Published: Jul. 14, 2021 at 4:56 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Top Republicans in South Carolina have voiced strong opposition to a proposition to legalize marijuana.

Gov. Henry McMaster, however, left some room open when discussing the legalization of medicinal marijuana Tuesday.

Democrat Joe Cunningham announced Monday that if he is elected governor, he would move to legalize both medicinal and recreational marijuana.

That day, the state GOP Chairman Drew McKissick sent out a strongly-worded press release titled: “Democrats want to raise crime, health problems by legalizing marijuana.”

The Republican leader said Colorado is an example of a state where crime has risen following the legalization of marijuana.

“The rise in crime, the increase in health problems -- especially suicidal thoughts and the negative affect on children’s development, all became worse when the state decided to legalize marijuana,” McKissick stated.

He added: “If you play stupid games, you win stupid prizes, and Democrats like Joe Cunningham keep wanting to play with fire.”

When asked about his take Tuesday, McMaster said legalizing recreational marijuana “is not a good idea... it’s not helpful.”

But he added: “Medical marijuana is a different story... And there may be some answers there, but I want to have more information.”

When pushed on when he could support legalizing medical marijuana, the governor said he believes some conditions can be helped by the drug.

“I know there’s a lot of suffering that is -- apparently is -- treatable or helped with what they call medical marijuana,” McMaster said. “I think we need to be very careful and use common sense and see what experience has produced in other states before we move too quickly.”

The governor said he is very interested in hearing from law enforcement on the issue, including South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel.

Keel spoke against a Senate bill that aimed to legalize medicinal marijuana in the spring of 2021.

“In my opinion, this bill is not about medicine. It’s about legalizing marijuana in South Carolina,” Keel said at the time.

In McKissick’s statement put out Monday, he said:

“As far as medical use goes, we agree with law enforcement and doctors that real medicine is something that should be approved and regulated by the FDA, prescribed by a legitimate doctor, and distributed by a licensed pharmacist.”

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