Last Thursday marked the end of our fifth week in session, and we completed two major items on our agenda. The first was regarding S290 – Repeal of the Certificate of Need, and the second was having the floor debate on S150 – South Carolina Compassionate Care Act (Medical Cannabis).

S290-Repeal of the Certificate of Need (CON)

The Certificate of Need is the process by which health care providers prove their services are needed so they can get a license to practice from the state. This process was started by the Federal Government in the 1970’s and was repealed in 1986, with many states following suit. However, South Carolina never did.

During the last 2 years, the certificate of need process was suspended by emergency order to offer flexibility and speed up the process of providing care to South Carolinians. I have always believed that competition and a free market are better for the consumer and was a co-sponsor of the bill. I think most business owners wish they had a say in whether they need more competition!

During the debate, there was a battle between reform of the process versus an outright repeal. One of the arguments against repeal was that it would hurt rural healthcare, but that didn’t seem to persuade those who represent the rural areas of our state, who ultimately believe what we have isn’t working.

The main concern we heard from most of the private hospitals is that they don’t mind competition – they just want to compete on a level playing field and not against a state-funded hospital (MUSC). We amended the bill to include that MUSC must go before the Joint Bond Review Committee (JBRC) and submit details on any proposed acquisitions for review and must receive approval. I personally thought the bill didn’t have the votes for full repeal– but in the end, the full repeal passed rather easily.

S150 – SC Compassionate Care Act

On this issue, I went into the debate leaning towards a “no” vote, siding with Law Enforcement, and not wanting to turn South Carolina into a Colorado, but was open to hearing from the bill’s primary sponsor, Sen. Tom Davis (R- Beaufort). After 3 weeks of great debate and over seventy amendments (which makes S150 the most restrictive medical cannabis bill in the country), the bill passed by a vote of 28-15. The “no” votes included 4 Democrats. As a point of interest, thirty-seven of our fifty states have already passed a cannabis bill, with 17 of those states allowing full use of recreational marijuana.

The bill limits how much cannabis can be produced and is extremely limited on how many “pharmacies” will be allowed to dispense the product after two physicians have signed off on the recommendation. Cannabis can be ingested in several forms including vape, but you cannot “burn leaf.” In other words, if you smell it, it would still be illegal. The bill also allows local jurisdictions to vote not to allow it in their county or city/town.

I believe this bill provides patients with an alternative to opioids for pain management. I have seen the destruction and death that opioids can do personally, which is why I ended up voting for the bill. I also believe that it remains a Schedule II drug federally because the pharmaceutical companies that are manufacturing synthetic pain killers don’t want it to be given a fair shot.

The bill now goes to the House, and we will see if they take it up before the end of the session. It was a conversation that deserved to be heard and I am now glad Senator Davis was persistent with the issue.

Coming Up

This week, we will be discussing the Finance Committee’s recommendations on both the ARPA funds and the Savannah River Settlement funds. I served on the Finance subcommittees for both fund discussions and I was pleased that our recommendations were adopted by the full committee and sent to the floor. We need to get the ARPA funds out because all the funds must be spent by the end of 2026. I will give you the details once we finalize the Senate plans.

As always, I want to thank you again for the opportunity to represent District 8 in the South Carolina Senate. It is an honor and a privilege that I do not take lightly.

If there is anything I can do to help you navigate state government or if you just want to share your thoughts and concerns, please call my Columbia office at (803) 212-6148 and either I or my assistant, Ja’vell Bynoe, will be happy to help you out.