Wednesday, January 14, 2015

From the House

Bluffton Today

After a very busy fall and early winter, we are finally in legislative session. The last couple of months of 2014 were just packed with Ways and Means Committee pre-session meetings, as well as the study committees and subcommittees to formulate strong recommendations for legislative action as we reconvene. The planning is over and it’s time to get to work.


As you may know, my friend and delegation colleague, Senator Tom Davis, has sponsored a bill from the senate side called the Medical Marijuana Law. It proposes a state program to make medical marijuana available to folks with documented need for this drug, when prescribed by a medical doctor. Needless to say, this is a controversial proposal and I need to hear from you, the residents and voters of District 118. I have certain thoughts and feelings about this issue, which I will share in a moment. However, as your representative, I must have a sense of how the community at large comes down on this matter.


This is not the first time I have sought your council on important issues, and you have never let me down. Whether I needed your thoughts on the limits of imminent domain as a way for the state to secure land for important projects, or whether you thought development issues along the Colleton/Okatie needed more scrutiny, you have given me what I needed to do the proper thing. I know this time will be no exception.


The primary argument opposing medical marijuana is the “slippery slope” notion that this is just a way to crack the door for decriminalization of marijuana, perhaps leading toward legal access to a host of currently illegal substances. It is said that prescriptions for medical marijuana erode the seriousness of the doctor/patient relationship, leading to make-believe illnesses and disingenuous treatment. There is also the safety question that is: We already have a huge problem with driving under the influence of alcohol, why add another drug that drivers should not take before driving?


Medical marijuana advocates counter by saying that pain management is made simpler and more effective if medical marijuana is in the mix. This often leads to less reliance on addicting and costly narcotics. There are some good studies that show effectiveness in treating some phobias and Post Traumatic Stress with controlled amounts of marijuana. There is also the difficulty of doing good research into the potential breakthroughs that may reside in this drug, if it’s still stigmatized as illegal across the board. Such a breakthrough is the seizure reducing marijuana oil, now somewhat available due to the exemplary efforts of Senator Davis in the last session.


My thinking on this issue comes partly from the competing arguments, but mainly from the experiences of my brother and former business partner, Tom Herbkersman. Tom was diagnosed with a virulent and very painful form of cancer a number of years ago. As a smart man with a fair bit of success, he was able to access the best that both conventional and complementary medicine had to offer, before finally passing away a couple of years ago. Due to his being able to fly to California to a pain management clinic, he was prescribed medical marijuana. I am convinced that it extended his life and gave his final years a profoundly higher quality than if he had not be able to access the medical marijuana. He kept his appetite and weight up, and his pain levels down, almost until the end.


Please send me your thoughts to schsdistrict118@aol.com.


Finally, our thoughts and prayers go out to my friends Al and Shannon Stokes. Their son, Collin, unexpectedly passed away last week. Al is the long-time manager of the Waddell Mariculture Center in Bluffton.