Representative Mike Pitts (R-Laurens), a retired Greenville police officer is sponsoring a bill that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use in South Carolina. The bill would change the current penalties of criminal arrest and possible jail time, to a citation and civil court appearance for persons caught with one ounce or less of marijuana. First time offenders would pay a fine of at least $100, but not exceeding $200. The fine for a second offense would be a minimum of $200, but not exceeding $1,000.
To summarize his rational behind sponsoring this bill, Rep. Pitts stated,
“I never once had to fight a pothead. I never once had to chase a pothead. They just did not create problems.”
As a state without an active medical marijuana program and a history of hostility towards marijuana, a bill put forth by a former member of law enforcement is a loud statement. “As a law enforcement officer, the biggest thing that I see is a person can be arrested for a small amount, a half-a-joint, for instance; criminal record stays there forever unless they have it expunged,” Pitts said.
Still, the bill faces stiff opposition from current law enforcement. “As a law enforcement officer, I’m not going to be in favor of any legislation that encourages the possession of narcotics by our young people.” State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel said.
Representative Pitts stressed the fact that his bill would not legalize marijuana posession, it will still be against the law to possess marijuana in quantities exceeding the limits set forth in the bill. South Carolina lawmakers return to session on January 12.