South Carolina bill would permit new marijuana-based epilepsy treatment

Recently, a piece legislation that would allow epileptic patients to control their seizures by using an oil derived from marijuana passed the South Carolina House by an overwhelming vote of 90-24. While this particular bill does not go as far as to legalize marijuana use itself for medical purposes — something several other states have already done — it is an important first step for those in South Carolina suffering from medical conditions in which marijuana may be a useful treatment.

Specifically, the bill would permit qualifying patients to participate in a clinical trial in order to test the effectiveness of using a marijuana extract known as cannabidiol (CBD) to treat epilepsy. Importantly, the bill expressly protects those involved in the testing from arrest or prosecution due to their use or possession of the drug in South Carolina.

Interestingly, an amendment was earlier added to the legislation in an effort to broaden the bill to legalize marijuana for medical purposes, but lawmakers defeated this particular amendment.

Current marijuana laws in South Carolina

Under current South Carolina law, it is against the law to possess a controlled substance, including marijuana, which is actually considered a Schedule I drug in South Carolina.

In fact, the possession of a mere one ounce or less of marijuana is a misdemeanor in South Carolina, punishable by up to 30 days in jail or a fine ranging from $100 to $200. Any subsequent conviction for this same offense can result in jail time of up to one year or a fine between $200 and $1,000, or both. However, possession of more than one ounce of marijuana is a felony, with a possible penalty of five years in jail and a $5,000 fine. Anyone violating this law for a second time may face up to 10 years in jail and fine of $10,000.

If the alleged offender happens to be found with 10 pounds or more of marijuana, it is automatically considered a felony known as " trafficking in marijuana." Those charged under this law, and allegedly in possession of 10 to 100 pounds of marijuana, may face severe penalties, including:

  • First offense: A prison sentence of one to 10 years and a fine of $10,000
  • Second offense: A prison sentence of five to 20 years and a fine of $15,000
  • Third, and any subsequent, offense: A mandatory prison sentence of 25 years and a fine of $25,000

As this article illustrates, the laws in South Carolina regarding marijuana possession are quite complicated. Adding to this complexity, however, is the fact that marijuana also continues to be illegal under federal law. Accordingly, if you are currently facing drug possession or trafficking charges in South Carolina, it is best to seek the counsel of an experienced drug crime defense attorney. A skilled attorney can assist by investigating the circumstances of your arrest and help explain your rights and options.