Medical expert: Marijuana should be first line option, not last resort


COLUMBIA, SC (WACH) - The push to legalize medical marijuana is intensifying at the South Carolina State house. Lawmakers heard nearly five hours of testimony Wednesday from medical experts. Currently, 24 states have full comprehensive medical cannabis laws, and several doctors are urging South Carolina lawmakers to do the same.

"Cannabis is not for everybody, but I do believe it should be a first line option and not the last resort," said Dr. Uma Dhanabalan. She practices medicine in Massachusetts and says there's years of science to prove benefits of cannabis.

Some lawmakers expressed concern that legalizing marijuana for medical use could lead to unregulated recreational use, but Dr. Dhanabalan says there is no data that proves that's the case.

"Cannabis is not an entrance drug- it's an exit drug from pharmaceuticals and narcotics," said Dhanabalan.

Dr. Sue Sisley came from Arizona to testify Wednesday.

"I'm not pro cannabis- I'm just pro science," said Sisley. She practices internal medicine and is also the Medical Director for medical cannabis license holders in 14 states.

"I've started to examine the scientific literature, and I realized that there is a sufficient amount of scientific data to support the idea of cannabis as a medicine," said Sisley.

Kathy Roberson was one of several people sitting in on Wednesday's hearing. Her 11-year-old son, Morgan, has epilepsy. He's been on pharmaceutical drugs for five years, but Morgan is unable to function while under the influence of those drugs.

"We had 232 days seizure-free from May of last year until January 2nd, and today this is the fourth one he's had."

Morgan had a seizure outside of the State house Wednesday minutes before the hearing. His mom says it was minor compared to the seizures he use to have before his medicine changed.

Morgan was prescribed CBD in june of 2015, which is found in the cannabis plant. Since then, his mom says his life has completely changed.

"It is the difference between him living in a wheel chair and being a functional human being," said Robereson. "He went from not being able to tell me the number that came after seven to being able to do simple math and reading."

Doctors like Sue Sisley say they hope South Carolina passes legislation this year so that families like the Robersons can live normal lives.

"I don't want the legislators here to think they can wait until the FDA approves cannabis as a medicine, because that could be a decade away, and in the meantime, we've got sick patients right here in this state who desperately need legal access to quality medication."

The Senate committee plans to meet again to debate the issue before they take a vote on the measure. A date has not yet been set.

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