David Lauderdale

SC ‘one big pot party’? Beaufort’s boyish Sen. Tom Davis answers anonymous mailer

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.

“Party boy Tom Davis,” the straight-laced Republican from dear old Beaufort, created quite a buzz in Columbia this week.

Actually, he was a victim of an outlandish anonymous mailing opposing his medical marijuana bill.

A slick, full-color, flyer landed in mailboxes all over the Lowcountry Wednesday depicting Davis in a Hawaiian shirt, holding a huge bag of what the cop reports used to call “a green, leafy substance.”

“Don’t let Tom Davis turn South Carolina into a Pot Party,” it says, with photos of women in bikinis and leis appearing to be partying and sunbathing at Myrtle Beach and on the Statehouse lawn. Reefers, vapes, a bong and a pot pipe illustrate the dangers of Davis’ “Pandora’s box.”

Don’t worry, Davis told his distinguished colleagues on the Senate floor, he could “never get women like that to attend a party of mine.”

Davis said Thursday morning, “I told them it was an example of dark money in politics, that it was cowardly, and absolutely a lie.”

But he got more than 700 phone calls on it Wednesday.

The mailer says Davis wants to turn South Carolina into “one big pot party.”

It orders the reader not to let him turn South Carolina into liberal California.

“It’s Tom Davis’s Pot Party, but we’ll be the ones left crying.”

Davis said the mailer can be traced only to a post office box.

“Who did it or why, I don’t know,” he said, “but it is the way of politics today.

“Somebody put a lot of money in this.”

Davis believes it was “a massive mailing” that went to every GOP voter in the state’s First Congressional District.

“But I’m not running for Congress, and I’m not going to run for Congress,” he said.

And it apparently broke some new ground. It calls Davis “a famous Columbia partier.”

“I’ve never been called that before,” Davis said.

The most visible opponents of his 2019 South Carolina Compassionate Care Act told the Post and Courier of Charleston they had nothing to do with the mailer, and that they opposed it. That includes the South Carolina Medical Association, the South Carolina Sheriffs’ Association, Gov. Henry McMaster, state Attorney General Alan Wilson, and State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel.

“I see this as a canary in the coal mine,” Davis said. “It’s an indicator that what I’m doing is going to be successful.”

It fired up his talking points he’s been pushing for two years.

“I’ve met so many people who are suffering with epilepsy or Crohns disease or other specifically defined illnesses who could get relief this way when authorized by a physician,” Davis said. “To not offer that relief, I just don’t think that’s defensible.”

He argues there is scientific evidence this treatment can work, that 33 states have enabled this type of treatment, and that he knows South Carolina is a conservative state and his bill reflects that.

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Senior editor David Lauderdale has been a Lowcountry journalist for more than 40 years. He oversees the editorial page, writes opinion, and tells the stories of our community. His columns have twice won McClatchy’s President’s Award. He grew up in Atlanta, but Hilton Head Island is home.
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