South Carolina editorial roundup

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Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

April 15

Island Packet, Hilton Head Island, S.C., on the CBD oil bill:

If they are willing to hammer out a compromise, state lawmakers still have a chance to pass legislation this year that could greatly improve ill South Carolinians' lives.

Both the House and Senate have passed versions of a bill put forth by Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, allowing limited access to cannabidiol oil (CBD), a marijuana extract that many have found helps with epilepsy and other conditions. That may include Mary Louise Swing, a 6-year-old who lives in Mount Pleasant and suffers between 20 and 60 seizures an hour despite being on two medications.

The oil, extracted from marijuana plants and administered through a dropper, contains little to no tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the primary psychoactive part of the cannabis plant. So there is no high. But a growing body of research shows it can help those who suffer from severe forms of epilepsy when other medications fail to control their seizures.

"It can be a miracle drug," said Rep. Jenny Horne, R-Summerville, the main sponsor of the House version of the bill.

In late March, the Senate passed Davis' bill to create a research program for CBD oil to be used as an anti-seizure medication. MUSC would begin CBD oil clinical studies through the program. Only those participating in the trials would receive the drug.

But this version of the bill ran amuck when both the S.C. Medical Association and the State Law Enforcement Division, the state's top law enforcement agency, raised concerns about the purity of oils not controlled by the Food and Drug Administration.

And others, including Mary Louise's mother, worried the bill didn't go far enough. For instance, even if Mary Louise were fortunate enough to be accepted into a clinical trial, she might receive a placebo instead of the drug.

We agree that the Senate version of the bill is so restrictive, it could deny access to the very people it is intended to help.

A better version was overwhelmingly passed by the House earlier this month, allowing people certified by a doctor as suffering from severe epilepsy, or their parents, to go outside of the state to obtain the oil and legally bring it back into South Carolina.

That would ensure S.C. residents like Mary Louise would get the drug and that her caregivers would not run into legal trouble for obtaining it.

We applaud the House's 90-24 vote to pass the bill.

But now, the hard work begins.

Senators must either agree to the House version or come up with a compromise that a majority in both chambers can agree on. Otherwise, the bill is dead for this session, and South Carolinians are denied access to a potentially life-altering medicine.

Davis, working to get the bill into a version that can pass, said he's attempting to strike a balance between making it as expansive as possible (to increase patients' ability to get the oil) and narrow enough so that SLED, the medical association and others don't oppose it.

We hope that's possible, and that all stakeholders keep in mind the bill is about saving lives.

It's worth the effort to pass this year.

Online:

http://www.islandpacket.com

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April 13

Morning News, Florence, S.C., on stand your ground tweak:

Thanks to hoodies and loud music in Florida, "stand your ground" laws are under an intense microscope these days. Depending on personal tastes and sensibilities, the laws are generally viewed as perfectly reasonable or patently ridiculous.

Just to further illustrate the national dissonance, almost exactly half of the states (23) in the nation have a version of "stand your ground" on the books.

In March, state Rep. Harold Mitchell, D-Spartanburg — backed by former law enforcement officials and 17 other co-sponsors — introduced a bill to repeal South Carolina's version of the law.

On the other end of the spectrum, the South Carolina Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Thursday passed a measure to expand the law.

The "Pregnant Women's Protection Act" permits expectant women to use deadly force in defense of an unborn child, beginning at conception.

The state's current "stand your ground" law states the following:

"A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in another place where he has a right to be, including, but not limited to, his place of business, has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force, if he reasonably believes it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury to himself or another person or to prevent the commission of a violent crime as defined in Section 16-1-60."

Republican lawmakers say that definition isn't broad enough to cover mothers-to-be, because it does not protect against a punch to the stomach.

Huh?

Sen. Katrina Shealey, R-Lexington, was correct when she argued that no situation exists in which an unborn child would be threatened while the mother is not.

While the threat of violence faced by women, pregnant or not, is very real, especially considering the rate of domestic violence in South Carolina, permitting deadly force against someone who appears to be preparing a punch to the stomach is dubious at best.

More to the point, this "expansion" is just a repetition on the state's existing "stand your ground" language. It does zilch to actually strengthen existing anti-violence laws. It does not create additional funding for domestic violence service providers, and it does not increase resources to aid people in violent situations.

What it does do, and this is clearly the impetus for this legislative trickery, is grant personhood to fetuses by defining life at conception. We see this as nothing more than another step in the larger, strategic initiative on the part of some lawmakers to chip away at Roe v. Wade.

It's nothing new. Legislatures across the country have differing interpretations of Roe v. Wade.

But to back-door the message under the guise of protecting women is wrong.

Online:

http://www.scnow.com

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April 15

Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C., on the state Conservation Bank:

The state Conservation Bank appears to have fully won the confidence of the S.C. House of Representatives, which voted overwhelmingly in support of a full allocation during last month's budget deliberations. Assuming Senate concurrence, the bank can expect to receive $11 million in funding next year to pursue its ongoing efforts to preserve valuable sites across the state.

And as the economy improves the bank can expect to receive even more, given continued support from the state Legislature. As property sales heat up, the Conservation Bank's allocation increases, since it receives a fraction of the revenue from documentary stamps required for land transactions.

If indeed the Legislature is sold on the good work of the Conservation Bank, then it should eliminate the "poison pill" provision that virtually terminates funding to the bank during an economic downturn.

Under that provision, the bank is automatically jeopardized if the state's revenues take a dip below the Legislature's budgeted expectations. Then funding that otherwise would be earmarked for the bank goes into the state's general fund.

And that leaves the Conservation Bank without funds to meet its financial responsibilities to landowners who have agreed to sell their property for conservation, or to have an easement placed upon it for that same purpose.

During the most recent recession, the bank almost had to shut down for lack of funding even though it is the smallest agency in state government, with only two employees. Only a last-minute rescue carried out by Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Charleston, kept the bank afloat in 2009.

That's an unreasonable situation for a state agency that provides so much benefit at no cost to the general taxpayer. Since its creation in 2002, the bank has been instrumental in preserving some 200,000 acres, largely environmentally valuable property, though including historic sites, like Morris Island. Most recently, the bank pledged $800,000 to help keep property around the Angel Oak from being developed for apartments. It also provided money for the acquisition of land at Bacon's Bridge to be included in a nature park by Dorchester County.

The bank's charter was extended five years in 2012, so there certainly will be another opportunity to review the poison pill provision in 2017.

Why wait? The House vote in support of the bank's allocation next year says that this is a good year to make the needed change.

Then the bank won't have to worry from year to year what its financial prospects will be.

You wouldn't do that with the bank on the corner - and the Legislature shouldn't leave the Conservation Bank with such an uncertain future.

Online:

http://www.postandcourier.com

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