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South Dakota Senate full-steam ahead on changes to medical cannabis

The measures range from limiting "doctor-shopping" for medical marijuana certifications to adding physician assistants to list of medical professionals who can prescribe cannabis

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Sen. David Wheeler, R-Huron, left, speaks with Sen. Reynold Nesiba, D-Sioux Falls, and Sen. Red Dawn Foster, D-Pine Ridge, on Monday, Jan. 24, 2022, prior to the Senate beginning for the day.
Christopher Vondracek / Forum News Service
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PIERRE, S.D. — Eight bills up, eight bills passed.

And eight new ways the voter-approved medical cannabis program in South Dakota is likely to be changed.

The South Dakota Senate on Tuesday, Jan. 25, advanced more than a half-dozen tweaks, additions, and deletions to the codified version of Initiated Measure 26, the medical cannabis law that was approved by over 70% of the state's voters in 2020.

But barely any of the eight measures, all developed and endorsed by a majority on the summer study committee chaired by Sen. Bryan Breitling , R-Miller, drew much more than scattered opposition.

One measure , which faced "no" votes only from the chamber's three Democrats, would outlaw the ability for a patient to receive a prescription from a doctor with whom he or she has no relationship beyond a medical cannabis certification.

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"The language will reduce doctor shopping," Breitling said.

Other changes range from an added requirement that a patient registry kept by the Department of Health also contain the contact information for guardians of patients under the age of 18 to the removal of "therapeutic or palliative" from modifying the definition of a "medical condition" constituting eligibility for medical marijuana — a redundancy, said supporters.

Both those bills received unanimous support from the Senate.

Only one measure — Senate Bill 18 — faced tight passage. The bill adds "distribution" and "tracking" of medical cannabis to the list of activities that must be reported by a dispensary to state regulators.

"I don't like to hand rule-making authority to an administrative agency without knowing what rules they want to use for it," said Sen. David Wheeler , R-Huron, in objecting to SB 18.

The Senate approved the bill on an 18-16 vote.

Not every measure limits the rights afforded to medical cannabis cardholders under the new program, which is expected to be fully operational later this year.

The Senate also approved one measure that requires DOH to provide notification to a cardholder when his or her status is revoked. Moreover, the Senate passed another bill that adds other medical professionals — including physician assistants and nurse practitioners — to the list of caregivers who can certify patients for eligibility.

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"I worked in Martin, South Dakota, and they have a physician who comes in once a month to oversee the hospital," said Sen. Erin Tobin , R-Winner. "I'd worry they'd come in once a month, and they'd just do marijuana cards."

None of the measures have yet to be raised in the House of Representatives, where they could face more opposition. On Monday, the House approved a change to IM 26 that would prohibit home cultivation of medical cannabis plants. The Senate has yet to vote on a more modest change to that provision.

Related Topics: SOUTH DAKOTA
Christopher Vondracek covers South Dakota news for Forum News Service. Email him at cvondracek@forumcomm.com or follow him on Twitter at @ChrisVondracek.
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