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Medical marijuana should be legal in South Carolina, group says

A group responded Tuesday to claims by opponents of a medical marijuana bill.

Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Supporters of a new medical marijuana bill in South Carolina say the drugs they're advocating are safe, despite what opponents say.

The group met at the State House Tuesday where they held a news conference with reporters. Among them were doctors, veterans, and parents.

Both the House and Senate are considering a measure known as the Compassionate Care Act.  The bill allows doctors to dispense up to 2 ounces of medical cannabis every two weeks in the forms of vaporized flower or oil, gel caps, suppositories, patches, edibles or topical creams. It doesn't allow smoking cannabis, and has penalties for violators. 

RELATED: SC's proposed medical marijuana law: a closer look

David Newsom, who represents Compassionate SC, a group that supports the proposed law, said those who advocate for medical marijuana are sometimes misunderstood.

"They're not the scourge of society, or potheads, that have commonly been referred to by people opposed to this legislation," Newsom said.

Last month,  a group of opponents of the measure, including South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, claimed in state's that have legalized it, it's led to an more recreational use, and of teens getting their hands on the drug. He added it would increase crime, and said "it is the most dangerous drug, because it is the most misunderstood drug." 

RELATED: 'Marijuana is the most dangerous drug': Opponents wants to keep medical marijuana illegal in SC

But Dr. Prakash Nagarkatti, the Vice President of Research at the University of South Carolina, said he's been researching cannabinoids, which chemicals are derived from marijuana, for 20 years.  According to his work, he said the drugs can have benefits for those who suffer from cancer, PTSD, and other illnesses.

"Our research has clearly shown that these marijuana compounds can suppress inflammation and therefore can be used in the treatment of all these auto immune diseases," Nagarkatti said.

He also said that while critics are right that many versions don't have FDA approval because the drug has been illegal for many types of research, some versions of the drug have gotten sanctioned by the government. And he said while more research is needed, there's a large volume of work that backs up the findings that the drugs can be effective. 

Dr. Monnie Singleton, a physician in Orangeburg, says he's seen proof of it himself.

"If 33 states find it important to have medical marijuana accessible by their citizens, I think South Carolina to do the same," said Dr. Monnie Singleton, a physician in Orangeburg. "I have been using it in my patients with chronic pain, fibromyalgia, the neuropathies......and have just seen the benefits." 

Steven Diaz, a Marine veteran who himself has suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), said he believes the drugs can help veterans like him. He says opiods are a far bigger threat, and he's seen some of his comrades suffer severe consequences from those legal prescription drugs.

"I saw the damage that it did to them, the countless stories that I've heard of the veterans who have taken their life because of the destruction that those type of medications have plagued them," Diaz said.

The bills have been referred to committee. Previous versions of the measure have failed in previous legislative sessions.