Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:


March 3:

The Times and Democrat on legalizing medical marijuana in South Carolina:

Opinions have changed markedly regarding marijuana, with a number of states having legalized recreational use. While there is sentiment for such in South Carolina, don’t look for legalization anytime soon.

But the time has come for South Carolina lawmakers to take action on the use of marijuana for prescribed medical purposes.

On Monday, a group of veterans joined together to call for enactment of a comprehensive medical cannabis program in 2021. South Carolina thereby would join 36 states across the country with such a law, including several Southern states, such as Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Virginia.

A poll by Starboard Communications shows 72% of South Carolina residents support the veterans’ position, with only 15% opposed.

“The results of this poll reinforce what advocates have known for years — that the overwhelming majority of South Carolinians support a compassionate medical cannabis program. Voters understand that medical cannabis can provide life-changing relief, and that the law should not stand in the way,” said Judy Ghanem of Murrells Inlet, whose daughter Kira has a rare genetic disorder.

“My daughter and thousands of other South Carolinians deserve the right to the same medical option that is now legal in 36 states. It is past time lawmakers listen to voters and adopt the S.C. Compassionate Care Act to stop needless suffering.”

The poll surveyed 801 registered South Carolina voters from Feb. 16-19. Notably, it found more than two-thirds support in all four regions: Upstate, Midlands, Lowcountry and Pee Dee.

The results come as legislation to legalize medical cannabis gains momentum in the legislature. In January, lawmakers introduced The South Carolina Compassionate Care Act (S. 150/H. 3361), which would allow patients with debilitating medical conditions and a doctor’s certification to access medical cannabis from regulated facilities.

It’s important to note a law wouldn’t require doctors to prescribe medical marijuana law; it would simply give them the option. In treating South Carolinians suffering from painful or debilitating conditions, doctors should have that option.



March 1

The Post and Courier on South Carolina's early lifting of some coronavirus restrictions:

A year into a pandemic that already has killed more than 7,500 South Carolinians and more than half a million Americans, we are making extraordinary progress toward reclaiming our lives from COVID-19.

More than 15% of the U.S. population has been vaccinated, with more getting their shots daily. Add those to nearly 10% of the population who have tested positive — with estimates of four or five times that many more having been infected — and we are significantly reducing the number of available hosts who can spread the virus to others, including others whose bodies aren’t strong enough to survive an infection.

In states such as South Carolina that have prioritized people who are most vulnerable to severe infection and death over those who are most likely to be exposed to the coronavirus, we’re starting to see more older residents venturing out of their self-imposed quarantine to resume a more normal lifestyle.

But while all of that is reason for celebration, it is not reason to let our guard down — particularly since a dramatic drop off in new infections starting in late January seems to be plateauing as new COVID variants spread.

On Friday, we got a double-dose of warning from the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walenski, and from Dr. Anthony Fauci, who cautioned against the temptation to ease off on public health precautions, because the nation remains “at that very precarious position that we were right before the fall surge — where anything that could perturb that could give us another surge.”

Unfortunately, the other thing that happened was that S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster did precisely what Drs. Walenski and Fauci warned against, once again jumping the gun and easing up on his meager restrictions as we start to head in the right direction, but long before we’re in a safe place. South Carolina, after all, was still reporting the second highest number of new infections per 100,000 people in the country last week.

There might not be a huge practical effect of Mr. McMaster’s decision to lift the 11 p.m. curfew on alcohol sales. The curfew was never as effective as the prohibition on congregating in bars, which he should have kept in place in the fall when he eliminated social-distancing requirements in restaurants and bars. Instead he replaced that very smart restriction with the alcohol curfew, thus encouraging college bars to reopen and pack in the COVID-spreading partiers.

And certainly eliminating the theoretical restriction on large gatherings is unlikely to make South Carolina even more fertile ground for infection. As we explained last month, if you’re serious about protecting the public health, you don’t put the Commerce Department in charge of protecting the public health. The department rarely turned down applications for events with more than 250 people, and why would it? The bar wasn’t very high to get approval, and there was no enforcement when the rules were blatantly disregarded — even when off-duty police were working the events — so all people unwilling to clear the bar had to do was lie about their plans.

But while Mr. McMaster’s latest pullback in public health requirements might not have much practical effect, it sends an insidious message that the danger is behind us. Yes, the governor did make the point that it’s still dangerous, and we all need to remain cautious, but most people are simply going to see the “restrictions lifted” news and ignore his words.

So think of this as an exclamation point on the governor’s responsible words: Yes, the virus is still alive and well in our communities, and it is still sickening and killing our most vulnerable friends and neighbors. And the only way to save them, and get our economy and our lives back to normal, is by getting our vaccines as soon as possible, staying home as much as we can, wearing our masks and staying as far from others as possible when we must go out, and washing our hands and cleaning surfaces compulsively.

It should be noted, too, that by eliminating the requirements because so many of the most vulnerable South Carolinians have been vaccinated, Mr. McMaster has undermined his argument against allowing teachers to go ahead and get in line now for a vaccine, before all people 65 and older have been scheduled for a vaccination. If enough elderly residents have already been vaccinated that it’s safe to remove restrictions that were aimed at protecting them, by slowing community spread, then how is it possibly too dangerous to start vaccinating teachers — which removes the overwrought objections to getting children back into the classroom five days a week?



Feb. 24

The Index-Journal on a local sanitation district's retreat plans that drew criticism for the price tag:

Imagine that.

Mere days after the Post and Courier’s Greenville bureau unearthed the Greater Greenville Sanitation District’s plans for a little weekend jaunt to the plush Grove Park Inn in Asheville the trip has been — well — junked.

It seems that not enough commissioners could make the trip after all, according to the sanitation district’s executive director, Steve Cole.

Imagine that.

A retreat to work out the Greenville trash utility’s budget priorities had to hit the garbage can because, suddenly, not enough folks could go after all. No quorum, no retreat. And why no quorum? One of the five commissioners isn’t even officially seated yet, so that one was out and left four. An “unexpected illness” — as opposed to an expected illness? — took another one out. Yet another opted out of the trip to stay home with his wife, who just had major surgery. A magnanimous and selfless decision there.

Apparently this well-planned and previously booked trip to the Grove Park Inn didn’t come with a decent cancellation insurance policy because now the sanitation district is out its $5,000 deposit — roughly a third of what the weekend junket would have cost. How’s that for setting budget priorities?

But what about the retreat’s purpose? Is that all for naught now? No. Not at all. Turns out the commission will get together in the coming weeks to work on its budget priorities. Where? Oddly enough, at its Washington Street headquarters in Greenville.

Imagine that.

Turns out the commission did not really need to head to the mountains for a weekend trip that only had roughly seven hours devoted to a budget workshop. Turns out the commission is quite capable of hunkering down in the ole HQ to work on getting budget priorities figured out. Maybe they can order in some pizzas.

Imagine that.

And consider this:

— The Post and Courier performed a public autopsy on the commission’s plans for a retreat to the tune of more than $14,000 for roughly seven hours of work.

— Suddenly, a quorum cannot make the trip. Only, that came up after the story made the rounds in Greenville.

— They were to check in at the Grove Park Inn on Friday. As of Wednesday, the forecast called for a low of 41 degrees and a 75% chance of rain in Asheville. During the seven hours they were set to work on Saturday, the forecast improved somewhat, with a high of 64 degrees and a 38% chance of rain. Sunday’s checkout date has a similar forecast.

Not much of a retreat if you have angered many of the 54,000 households you service and the only decent weather would have been while you were supposed to be working on budget priorities.

Say what you think, but the excuses for the sudden change of plans strikes us as a bunch of garbage. It shouldn’t have taken a newspaper’s digging through the trash, either, for the commission to clean up its act.