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Please, leave the references to the 1936 film "Reefer Madness" at the door; people's health and well-being are at stake.

That South Carolina lawmakers are on the cusp of giving the OK for medical marijuana is a good thing and is nowhere close to opening the door to the trumped-up effects of marijuana that film would lead one to believe.

And while some might argue that progress is moving much too slowly on this front, credit is due to the lawmakers who are first and foremost wanting to open more research on the medical benefits that can be derived from cannabis. Other states have been criticized for too readily legalizing the use of medical marijuana; here, the emphasis has been put on testing, procedures and caution, as proposed by state Sen. Greg Hembree, an Horry County Republican.

Out of the gate with the start of this legislative session, a panel of lawmakers is moving forward with a resolution that will urge Congress and the U.S. attorney general to expand research on the benefits of medical marijuana, urging lawmakers to "take immediate and additional steps to promote and actively pursue scientific research and testing into the potential use of cannabis to treat other medical conditions and illness by removing the federal statutory and regulatory barriers that prevent these scientific endeavors."

State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, is another proponent of opening the doors to legalizing medical marijuana. He succeeded in getting passed in 2014 a law that allows patients with severe epilepsy to possess CBD oil.

Speaking with the media ahead of the legislative session opening on Jan. 3, Davis spoke passionately on the issue, which he promised to pursue yet again, noting that medical science has already shown that cannabis is therapeutic.

He referenced people with multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder, such as veterans. "It is inhumane to leave them with no way to relieve and live a normal life," Davis said. We agree.

Doctors, Davis said, should not be so controlled by the state regarding what they can and cannot prescribe to patients. So many pharmaceuticals turn patients into zombies, he said, "but CDB oils prove to work."

"I'd go on the black market for my kid," Davis said. "Thirty-three states have passed (legalized medical marijuana), and poll numbers show people in favor upwards of 77 to 80 percent. Democrats, Republicans, independents across the board want to empower doctors to be able to prescribe."

For far too long, "marijuana" and "liberal Democrats" were lumped together, as if we were stuck in the heyday of Woodstock, Monterey, free love, sex and drugs, and Cheech and Chong comedy. That's not the case, nor is that what our state's lawmakers are advocating for. Perhaps the state's best chance at giving needy patients the relief they need and can derive from medical marijuana lies ahead, thanks to the support of staunch Republicans. In other words, closeted supporters can now safely throw open the door.

Medical marijuana never should have been treated as a political party issue in the first place; it's a medical issue, plain and simple.

This editorial is from the Index-Journal of Greenwood via The Associated Press.

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