More than three in four South Carolina adults, including a majority of Republicans, support medical marijuana legalization, a new poll found. And a slimmer majority in the state backs adult-use legalization as well.
The new survey results come months after a medical cannabis bill passed the South Carolina Senate only to stall in the House of Representatives. A GOP congresswoman from the state recently told Marijuana Moment that lawmakers who block the reform are “on the wrong side of history.”
The Winthrop Poll, conducted in the lead-up to this month’s midterm elections, showed that 78 percent of adults want to see cannabis legalized for medical purposes, while 54 percent are in favor of recreational legalization.
For the medical marijuana question, strong majorities of both major parties back the reform, with 82 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of Republicans on board.
There was a greater divide when it came to adult-use legalization, with a majority of Democrats (67 percent) supporting the policy change, compared to only 39 percent of Republicans.
“Support for medical marijuana has been growing in South Carolina with sizable majorities from both parties favoring it,” Scott Huffmon, director of the Winthrop Poll, said. “While a bit more than half showed support for legalizing recreational marijuana, there was a sharp partisan divide.”
The survey involved interviews with 1,298 registered South Carolina adults from October 22-November 8, with a +/-2.8 percentage point margin of error.
Marijuana reform also played a role in the South Carolina gubernatorial race, which saw incumbent Gov. Henry McMaster (R) retain his seat over challenger Joe Cunningham, a former Democratic congressman.
McMaster attempted to dissuade voters from electing Cunningham, in part because of his opponent’s support for marijuana legalization.
Cunningham was unseated in his congressional reelection race in 2020 by now-Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC), who strongly supports cannabis legalization and introduced a bill to end prohibition last year.
In an interview with Marijuana Moment last week, Mace weighed in on South Carolina cannabis policy, saying “it’s time for our state and move forward” with medical marijuana legalization and that the “vast majority of South Carolinians” back the reform.
After Cunningham came out with a plan to legalize cannabis for medical and recreational purposes, South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Drew McKissick voiced opposition and said the Democratic candidate wants to “play with fire” by embracing the policy change.
But notably, a GOP South Carolina lawmaker came to Cunningham’s defense last year.
Rep. Tom Davis (R) said at the time that his own party’s stance, particularly as it concerns medical cannabis, is “an intellectually lazy position that doesn’t even try to present medical facts as they currently exist.”
Davis sponsored a medical marijuana legalization bill that cleared the state Senate along largely bipartisan lines earlier this year, but it was killed in the House following a procedural challenge. He later tried another avenue for the reform proposal, but that similarly failed.
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“We had one of the most conservative medical cannabis bills in the country get shut down on a technicality and they need to bring it back for a vote and that needs to pass. That would be my recommendation for the state legislature,” Mace told Marijuana Moment last week. “You’re on the wrong side of history if you continue to block responsible reforms like state Senator Tom Davis’s Compassionate Care Act.”
An earlier poll released in February found that South Carolina voters support legalizing medical cannabis by a ratio of five to one.
McMaster, for his part, has consistently opposed adult-use marijuana legalization, calling it “a bad idea” that isn’t “healthy” in 2017. And while the vast majority of his party is in consensus on allowing patients to access medical cannabis, the governor has been non-committal about past proposals, declining to endorse Davis’s bill earlier this year, for example.
He said his support or opposition would “depend on a lot of things” that he’d need to review if the legislation arrived on his desk.