So the Democrats are going to ask South Carolina voters if marijuana should be legal - for medicinal purposes, of course.

They are planning to put an advisory referendum on their June primary ballot.

Do you know what that means?

Yes, there actually still is a Democratic primary in South Carolina. And now there is even a reason to vote in it.

The idea for this referendum comes from House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, who says it is about helping people with debilitating diseases get access to a drug that could help them.

That's a noble goal, one that Republican Sen. Tom Davis is already working on. He wants to make it legal to give people with epilepsy a drug made from oil extracted from pot.

The questions here are: Why is this even a question? Who would deny people access to something that would help them cope with deadly illnesses?

Uh, the South Carolina General Assembly.

Up in smoke

The problem here is that far too many politicians - or, more accurately, their constituents - think this is a moral issue.

And it is, just not like they think.

These folks believe drugs are bad (Nancy says "Just Say No!") and medical marijuana would turn the state into a Cheech and Chong movie.

It doesn't help that "Legalize it!" has long been the rallying cry from hippies. The opposition thinks this is merely a gateway drug, not to harder stuff but to legalizing marijuana outright, like Colorado and other states have done.

Oddly enough, Colorado has not been destroyed by lightning yet, or even given Kansas a contact high from the second-hand smoke.

Yes, this is a moral issue. It is cruel and inhumane to deny sick people the right to anything that might treat their symptoms or make the disease itself a little more manageable.

That's not just liberals blowing smoke, either. Even the epilepsy researchers at MUSC lauded Davis' bill.

"Severe epilepsy syndromes are difficult to treat and current efforts are focused on decreasing seizures as well as increasing quality of life; it is encouraging that Senator Davis recognizes this reality, and is leading the way in searching for innovative treatments to better these patients' lives."

They probably would say more, but you never know when some Upstate yahoo might get the idea to cut their funding when they don't see eye-to-eye with their opinions. See Charleston, College of, book flap.

Don't expect science to move this Legislature. They will argue about a woolly mammoth's birthday to spite science.

And they have little sympathy. After all, these guys won't expand Medicaid, even though nearly 1 in 5 South Carolinians have no health insurance.

Frankly, sometimes it seems like they are the ones who are smoking something.

Nice dreams

Davis is optimistic he can get his bill passed.

But already some people are trying to dilute it, render it completely useless by restricting it to drugs with FDA approval.

That's too bad because, truth is, this advisory referendum the Democrats are pushing isn't worth the chad it's printed on. It will spark no action.

It would be far more instructive to put the referendum on the general election ballot, when all South Carolinians can vote on it.

But the Republicans won't do that. For one thing, they might not like the answer they get. Even a Fox News poll showed 85 percent of folks approve of legalizing medical marijuana.

The other reason this won't happen, of course, is politics. Such a referendum might bring people to the polls, people who might not fall into lockstep with the immoral majority.

That's why they don't ask about legalizing Monopoly, either - another sin in South Carolina.

As it is, the only person who has to fear a Democratic primary pot referendum is Lindsey Graham. Those Democrats who usually cross over to vote for him in the GOP primary might now have another reason to stick to their own party.

The Legislature needs to chill, pass Davis' bill without restrictions and put a medical marijuana referendum on the November ballot. And if they don't, let's hope they never need any serious treatment.

They should consider the upside. If nothing else, medical pot might help with the chronic pain of perpetually having a stick up their daises.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com