COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina faith leaders sent state lawmakers a strong message in support of medical cannabis legislation Wednesday. In a statement delivered to every member of the House and Senate, more than a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim clergy members “strongly urge[d] the Legislature to adopt a well-regulated medical cannabis program this year.”
“As clergy, we are committed to improving the lives of those around us through healing, mercy, and compassion,” the statement reads. “Therefore, we cannot remain silent while members of our community struggling with debilitating medical conditions are deprived of an effective treatment option.”
The statement was released at a news conference in the Capitol Rotunda, at which many of the signatories gathered around a sign reading, “Healing. Mercy. Compassion. Faith Leaders SUPPORT the Compassionate Care Act.”
“The Compassionate Care Act has the potential to improve the quality of life for countless patients and families across South Carolina,” said Rep. Terry Alexander, pastor of Wayside Chapel Baptist Church in Florence, who spoke at the news conference. “Our most afflicted and vulnerable neighbors need help, and many of them cannot wait much longer for relief. Enacting a compassionate medical cannabis law is the right thing to do, and now is the right time to do it.”
The statement notes medical cannabis “provid[es] significant medical benefits to patients suffering from a wide range of serious illnesses” and “offers many patients a safer alternative to prescription medications, such as narcotic pain relievers.”
“People struggling with serious illnesses and severe pain are our brothers and sisters,” said the Rev. Jeremy Rutledge of Charleston, who spoke at the news conference Wednesday. “Making medical marijuana available to them is a response of compassion and mercy. There is a religious element. It’s trying to help our neighbor.”
Other speakers at the event included Rep. Ivory Thigpen, a Baptist pastor in Columbia; Rabbi Eric Mollo of Charleston; and Rev. Alexander Sharp of Clergy for a New Drug Policy, which is rallying clergy nationwide in support of sensible medical cannabis legislation.
“A growing chorus of South Carolina voices is speaking out in support” for legal access to medical cannabis, the faith leaders said. “We proudly stand with them, and we hope you will join us all in standing up for our friends, family, and loved ones who need help.”
A strong, bipartisan majority of South Carolinians favor legalizing medical marijuana. A Benchmark Research poll released last month found 72 percent in support, including 84 percent of Democrats, 78 percent of independents, and 63 percent of Republicans.
Faith Leaders’ Statement of Support
To the Honorable Members of the South Carolina Legislature,
As clergy, we are committed to improving the lives of those around us through healing, mercy, and compassion. Therefore, we cannot remain silent while members of our community struggling with debilitating medical conditions are deprived of an effective treatment option. We strongly urge you to adopt a well-regulated medical cannabis program this year.
In addition to providing significant medical benefits to patients suffering from a wide range of serious illnesses, medical cannabis offers many patients a safer alternative to prescription medications, such as narcotic pain relievers. We object to patients being treated like criminals for seeking to alleviate their suffering, and we believe those who could benefit from medical cannabis should have safe, legal, and reliable access to it, especially if it is recommended by their physicians.
A growing chorus of South Carolina voices is speaking out in support of establishing a well-regulated medical cannabis program. We proudly stand with them, and we hope you will join us all in standing up for our friends, family, and loved ones who need help.
Rep. Terry Alexander, pastor, Wayside Chapel Baptist Church, Florence
Rev. Clara Benson (ret.), United Church of Christ, Goose Creek
Rabbi Jonathan Case, Columbia
Bill Davis, founder, Lighthouse Ministries, Townville
Rev. Jennifer Kottler, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Florence
Rev. Ed Kosak, Unity Church, Charleston
Rabbi Eric Mollo, Columbia
Rev. Kirk H. Neely (ret.), Southern Baptist, Spartanburg
Dr. Jeremy Rutledge, United Church of Christ, Charleston
Imam Shamudeen, Charleston
Rev. Alexander Sharp, Clergy for a New Drug Policy
JD Shepherd, Chaplain, Greer
Rev. Elizabeth Sikma, Baptist, Spartanburg
Rep. Ivory Thigpen, senior pastor, Rehoboth Baptist Church, Columbia
Kirby Winstead, Chaplain, Myrtle Beach
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CSC.Health (Compassionate SC) is a statewide coalition of patients, families, and advocates working to establish a comprehensive medical cannabis program in South Carolina. For more information, visit http://CSC.Health.