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APRIL PACE


Over Thanksgiving dinner, Greenwood resident Jeremy Lucero was forced to bring up a topic with his father that he dreaded.

“You want your family’s approval, but you know that doing something they’ve told you your whole life isn’t right and you shouldn’t do it, getting that compassion from him was not something that I was expecting,” said Lucero, a 35-year-old medical marijuana advocate and hopeful user. “It is hard trying to get people to understand that you aren’t a criminal, that you are on your last options.”

Lucero, who has had debilitating arthritis since childhood, is a member of South Carolina Compassion, a community organization that advocates for a comprehensive medical marijuana law.

On Thursday, a state Senate subcommittee convened that will ultimately give a recommendation to the Medical Affairs Committee about whether the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act should proceed.

Lucero, who said he also has depression, fibromyalgia and lupus, related to the progression of his arthritis, began using cannabis oil products about a year ago. That practice was legalized by former Gov. Nikki Haley in 2014 for people that have certain conditions — but the products only contain up to 0.9 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC — the active substance in marijuana.

Lucero and other advocates refute claims by medical marijuana opponents that giving access to the drug for health reasons would lead to widespread recreational use.

“From my perspective, seeing Maine, seeing Colorado, seeing Oregon, recreational (use) has come in and destroyed their medical programs, so those patients are literally relying on going to recreational products, which don’t have the same standards,” Lucero said. “We want to not have to go on the streets.”

Lucero isn’t alone. April Pace, a co-founder of South Carolina Compassion and its Upstate coordinator, said she embraced medical marijuana’s efficacy once her daughter began using oils for a rare condition that left her with up to 100 seizures a day.

“To say we’re just getting our kids high, it’s none of that. It’s a valiant effort. We are truly trying to get medication for our kids,” Pace said. “We’re trying to save our children, and we’re looking for alternatives and have no help.”

 

Contact staff writer Adam Benson at 864-943-5650 or on Twitter@ABensonIJ.