Circle Park hosts Marijuana Summit

FLORENCE, S.C. – As a South Carolina Senate panel advanced a bill Thursday morning legalizing marijuana in South Carolina for patients suffering from an array of ailments, Florence behavioral health group Circle Park held a meeting to discuss dangers of the drug on children.

South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Captain Frank O’Neal and Columbia attorney and lobbyist for the Behavioral Health Services Association Annie Wilson were featured speakers at the event attended by officers from across the Pee Dee.

O’Neal presented information to the group show ing that levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, has grown as much as 400 percent in recent years, so the drug should no longer be considered harmless.

He also gave examples of why marijuana use has a significantly negative effect on the developing brain, leading to lower IQs and test scores.


Randy Cole, CEO of Circle Park Behavioral Health Services, said the event served as a reminder that marijuana is harmful to the adolescent and ramifications of legalizing the drug—even for medicinal purposes—will be widespread.

“We want to look at way kids can move forward and not have the detrimental effects of marijuana on their lives,” Cole said. “We decided to try and tackle this, not only as a treatment provider but and intervention provider within the community.”

Cole said his approach to medical marijuana is that of many law enforcement agencies, which is the call for more research alongside heavy FDA regulations. Florence Police Chief Alan Heidler said his officers have seen many issues arise from states that have already legalized pot and medical marijuana fall into that problem.

“Anything that is a detriment to our citizens, then we have a responsibility to oppose that,” he said. “It [medical marijuana] is likely a guise for full legalization and we have to say, ‘Where does it stop?’”

If passed, the senate bill (S-672) would allow qualified patients and doctors to possess limited amounts of marijuana and would create an extensive tracking system. It would also make the state's health agency responsible for licensing marijuana growers, processors and dispensaries. Marijuana use is illegal under federal law but allowed in some cases in dozens of states.

A South Carolina law approved last year allows people suffering from severe epilepsy to use a non-psychoactive oil, referred to as CBD oil, derived from marijuana to control their seizures.

During the meeting , Circle Park kicked off a public service campaign centered on the idea: “Many parents don’t think marijuana is that big a deal. But is your child’s brain a big deal?”