SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Since beginning the distribution of tribal medical marijuana cards in July 2021, the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe (FSST) has registered more than 10,000 patients; more than 10x as many as the state’s program.

In total, the Tribe has distributed 10,641 medical cannabis cards. The state: 989.

This is a leap for the state, in terms of where they were at in March of 2022, when they had just 306 patients registered. Perhaps the largest barrier to entry into the state’s medical program is finding a physician who will initiate the proceedings.

In March 2022, the state had approved just 90 doctor accounts in the 8 months since medical marijuana was legalized. As of June 7, that number stands at 105 approved physicians.

In order to partake in the state’s medical cannabis program, a patient must have an in-person visit with a physician, who in turn will make a decision on whether a patient would benefit from medical cannabis. If the physician decides to move forward, they will need to create an account with the DOH, which must be approved before the application can progress. 

Native Nations Cannabis, the business operated by the FSST also requires patients to be evaluated by a doctor in order to receive a medical cannabis card, but unlike the state, which requires an in-person visit with a physician, the Tribe’s program allows for telemedicine appointments with licensed physicians both within and outside of South Dakota.

Beyond that, the Tribe also allows cannabis for a wider variety of conditions than the state, which limits access to those experiencing “cachexia or wasting syndrome; severe, debilitating pain; severe nausea; seizures; or severe and persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis.”

One final reason that may play a role in the large difference between card applications is the fact that, as of June 7, Native Nations is still the only operational dispensary in the state of South Dakota, leaving no other options for patients seeking medical cannabis.