The Democratic politicians in the South Carolina Legislature introduced a bill on Wednesday to make possession of small amounts of marijuana at federal levels a misdemeanor. The state’s Republican majority leader Rep. Jimmy Merrill released a statement that same day saying that “Marijuana is not more dangerous than alcohol and is most certainly no more dangerous than tobacco.” The bill did not garner unanimous support in the legislative process.
The Senate Judicial Affairs committee voted 6-4 against the legislation, but several dozen members of the public turned out to oppose the bill. Some residents spoke out against the bill saying they feared that it would send mixed messages to law enforcement, who would view small amounts of marijuana as a “less serious offense” than possession of more harmful substances. “I’m against it on principle,” said Republican State Rep. Phillip Gregory. “This is of utmost importance to law enforcement. They understand that not all violations of law are equal.” Many Democrats argued that the bill was being introduced by Republicans to get a vote out of the committee so they would meet their 2020 campaign goals.
The legislation would make possession of one ounce or less of marijuana a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $250. However, possession of more than an ounce of marijuana would result in arrest and a fine of up to $1,000.