Is it time to decriminalize marijuana in South Carolina?

A new study shows marijuana use among teens is growing . The study says 27 percent of teens admitted using pot last year, up from 19 percent in 2008.

With so many resources devoted to catching those who deal the drug, is it time to legalize marijuana use in South Carolina?

Brandon Plumley thinks it is. Plumley may look just as you would expect for the head of the Myrtle Beach chapter of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. There's a Bob Marley poster on his wall and bongs in his cabinet.

But Plumley also has another side. He was a gunner for the Army's 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq, he suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and he says marijuana is his medicine.

"For anxiety, depression, sleep, hunger," Plumley said. "I smoke marijuana because it makes me not want to freak out and it makes it to where I can deal with me."

Plumley said pot works better on his PTSD than any pill and can relieve pain and nausea for those suffering from AIDS, arthritis and other ailments, so why shouldn't people be allowed to use it responsibly and legally?

"That's all that matters. Just let people use what they want, let them have their bodies back," Plumley said.

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have laws that allow some medicinal use of marijuana and Plumley points out that list includes most of South Carolina's neighboring states.

But Horry County solicitor Greg Hembree is on the other side. He said prosecutors in other states where small amounts of marijuana have been legalized tell him it's been a disaster.

"The problems of abuse and the health issues that it creates have increased dramatically and it has just not been a good experiment," Hembree said.

Hembree does not believe decriminalizing marijuana would save money on law enforcement. He said those who now deal in marijuana wouldn't go away. They'd just find some other illegal thing to do.

"Hells Angels aren't going to fund their activities by, 'OK, let's all go do a car wash or a motorcycle wash.' That's not how it's going to go, they're not going to get a legitimate way to do it," he said.

Hembree said there are many ways today that a person in the Horry County area who is caught with marijuana can avoid jail time, so in practice, it's already decriminalized.

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