David Lauderdale

Reefer madness: SC brains just got cheeched and chonged by the state attorney general

Republican Senator Tom Davis’ push to legalize medical marijuana

State Senator Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, talks at The Hilton Head Island Packet offices May 20, 2016, about his daily push on the senate floor to legalize medical cannabis.
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State Senator Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, talks at The Hilton Head Island Packet offices May 20, 2016, about his daily push on the senate floor to legalize medical cannabis.

Please do not adjust your set.

That image coming out of the South Carolina State House on Wednesday was not from the 1936 movie, “Reefer Madness.”

It was the state attorney general in the year of our Lord 2019 telling the public that marijuana is the “most dangerous drug in America.”

Men in white lab coats stood by, representing the S.C. Medical Association. So did the head of the State Law Enforcement Division.

They voiced opposition to the Compassionate Care Act, which would enable doctors in South Carolina to prescribe non-smokable forms of marijuana under specific circumstances.

That’s fine. They can oppose it. And maybe they should oppose it.

But they can’t make up a wacky new reality.

Somebody needs to introduce S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson to these two words: “opioid epidemic.”


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that, on average, 130 Americans die each day from an opioid overdose.

Wilson said pot is the most dangerous drug in America because it is the most misunderstood.

But we can clearly understand this word from the CDC: Epidemic. That’s what it calls America’s opioid problem. “From 1999-2017, almost 400,000 people died from an overdose involving any opioid, including prescription and illicit opioids,” the CDC said.

And then the “Reefer Madness” reel really started rolling when Wilson fired off slang on the effects of marijuana use.

“They use words like stoned, high, wasted, baked, fried, cooked, chonged, cheeched, dope-faced, blazed, blitzed, blunted, blasted, danked, stupid, wrecked — and that’s only half the words they use,” Wilson said.

“Are these consistent with something that describes a medicine?”

Well, yes, they are. That’s probably only half the words one could associate with the abuse of opioids. Another might be “funeral.”

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State Sen. Tom Davis of Beaufort has been the most vocal champion of the medical marijuana bill. He’s a straight-laced Republican with Libertarian leanings. He was under the State House dome taking notes as this new version of Reefer Madness was rolling.

“That’s just absurd,” he told me the next morning.

“That’s not productive to the debate,” he said. “When they simply stand there and say to the people of South Carolina that cannabis is the most dangerous drug in America, I just think that’s wrong. What does that have to do with the debate?”

He also said Wilson’s list of chonged and cheeched slang is a bunch of coded, and if you’ll forgive me, buzz words.

“That’s just insulting to these parents and families that come up here to show us their suffering that it has been proven cannabis could relieve,” Davis said. “That’s the way they are treated? That’s what they get from the attorney general?”


So, let’s stick to the arguments.

Doctors say marijuana is not a medicine recognized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Law enforcement argues that it would open a “Pandora’s Box” of problems, such as drugged driving, and is a step toward legalization of marijuana for recreational use, Jeff Wilkinson reports in our sister paper, The State in Columbia.

Davis argues that his bill is the most restrictive of any of the bills passed in 33 states to enable the medical use of marijuana.

“My whole thing is I want doctors to be able to help a patient IF they think it is in the patient’s best interest,” Davis said. “I want them to have that alternative for specific instances, like cancer, glaucoma, PTSD, Crohn’s disease and others specified in the law.”

Davis said states as conservative as Utah have passed less-restrictive bills enabling medical marijuana usage because it has proven medical value.

“I understand their concerns, that it could be abused or morph into recreational us, but that’s why our bill is so restrictive,” he said.

So let them have a reality-based argument on the specifics in the bill.

After all, “Reefer Madness” didn’t work in 1936, and it sure won’t work in 2019.