SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A bill that would address a handful of issues facing medical marijuana cleared the House Health and Human Services Committee Thursday, despite vocal opposition from one member of the committee.
Republican Rep. Greg Jamison’s HB 1154, titled, “An Act to modify acceptable conduct for practitioners related to medical cannabis” amends and adds to the existing statue 34-20G-78.
The current statute reads:
A practitioner who knowingly refers patients to a medical cannabis establishment or to a designated caregiver, who advertises in a medical cannabis establishment, or who issues written certifications while holding a financial interest in a medical cannabis establishment is guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.34-20G-78
Jamison’s bill would tweak the language, and add more actions which could result in the penalty of a class 2 misdemeanor. These would apply to a practitioner who:
- Knowingly refers patients to a medical cannabis establishment or to a designated caregiver (already in statute),
- Advertises in a medical cannabis establishment (already in statute),
- Issues written certifications while holding a financial interest in a medical cannabis establishment (already in statute),
- Offers a discount, deal, or other financial incentive for making an appointment with the practitioner for the purpose of receiving a written certification (new),
- Conducts the medical assessment required for a bona fide practitioner-patient relationship in a space licensed for the sale of alcoholic beverages (new), or
- Charges a patient based on the term of a written certification issued to the patient (new).
The three new provisions added by the bill are meant to (1) prevent practitioners from offering discounts and other financial incentives such as ‘buy-one-get-one’ or ‘bring a friend for half off,’ (2) keep practitioners from doing assessments in bars, and (3) charging patients differing amounts for certifications of different lengths, such as $99 for a 6-month certification vs. $200 for a 12 month certification.
Jamison brought the bill at the behest of elements within the South Dakota Marijuana Industry, telling the committee during proponent testimony; “they are the ones who are requesting this bill.”
Having said that, Jamison stepped aside to allow Jeremiah Murphy, a lobbyist for the South Dakota Cannabis Industry Association to speak.
The first issue Murphy raised that he said came out of a meeting of the Medical Marijuana Oversight Committee (MMOC) is that of practitioners potentially operating in bars.
“There was a report of — then Secretary of Health [Joan] Adam was in Vermillion for Dakota Days and she was walking down the sidewalk past a bar and somebody popped out of the bar and offered her a flyer,” Murphy said, “‘Come on in — five minutes and we’ll get you a medical card.'”
Murphy says Adam declined the offer from the stranger, but that it was still wildly inappropriate. “That’s bad practice,” he said.
Two other issues raised at the MMOC meeting Murphy broached were inappropriate pricing and incentives. “That applies to the BOGO offers,” he said, arguing that such options make patients agents of the practitioners.
As for the section about charging based upon the term of the certification, Murphy called such practices wrong on their face.
Murphy also noted that this bill was fairly simple, without too much detail added. This he said, was a good thing, as it allows for the Dept. of Health (DOH) to step in later and make rules based upon the law.
Speaking next, Kittrick Jeffries, a South Dakota dispensary owner representing Dakota Cannabis Consulting agreed with Murphy’s testimony and thanked Jamison for bringing the bill. “I’ve personally reached out to both good and bad actors,” he said, urging passage of the bill.
The last person to speak in favor of the bill was Deb Peters, representing the business which runs True North Dispensaries. “The industry takes this so seriously,” she began. “All members of our association must now sign a code of conduct which talks about striving to conduct business and ourselves in an honest and dignified manner.”
After Peters spoke, the committee opened the floor for opponent testimony. There was none.
During committee questions, committee chair Republican Rep. Kevin Jensen asked the proponents of the bill, why the penalties in the bill apply to practitioners, and not the facilities hosting them. “There are some doctors that are working with a provider — with a dispensary, so to speak,” pausing before realizing he’d been confused. “Maybe that’s tribal, so I’ll leave that alone.”
A proponent of the bill then interjected, explaining that if a practitioner was working with a dispensary, that would already be a violation of the existing law. “I thought there were some doctors working in conjunction with a particular dispensary,” Jensen continued.
“If there are, they’re violating current law,” Murphy answered.
Jensen also told the House of Representatives on Wednesday that he believes medical marijuana clinics in the state are creating recreational marijuana, also unlikely considering the DOH approves both patient applications as well as those of the practitioners who recommend the treatment.
The next question came from Republican Rep. Fred Deutsch, who wanted to know if the bill had gone through the MMOC. It has not, though it was noted by Murphy that it came out of discussions held by the MMOC.
“Just to be clear, the oversight committee has not brought this bill forward,” Deutsch asked again. “Correct,” Murphy answered.
The final question came from Republican Rep. Brandi Schaefbauer, who asked Murphy if the bill was the same as Deutsch’s bill that was voted on in the House the day before.
“No. This is not redundant — they are completely separate. They’re two vastly different approaches to the same problem. This provides criminal penalties and brings doctors in for professional liability,” Murphy said. “The other bill just did not do those things.”
Deutsch’s bill, HB 1129 faced criticism itself in the House at large for adding little to the existing law and instead creating redundant certifications that already existed in other areas of the same law.
Moving on from committee questions, the bill received its only vocal opposition of the day from Deutsch, who had a number of comments.
Deutsch began by bemoaning the fact that this bill only applies to practitioners, many of which he said he believes are flown in from other states. He said he thinks it would be better to amend a different part of the law, 34-20G-80, to target both practitioners and the owners of the facilities they operate out of.
Another issue Deutsch had with the bill is that he said he felt there was nothing to protect South Dakotans “from getting a rubber stamp type of certification like Joan Adam was asked for — it doesn’t address hotel room examinations — it simply makes a cut out for a bar. I guess an argument could be made that there’s alcohol served in strip clubs — but I don’t know if it’s served in all strip clubs.”
This marks a recent fixation for Deutsch, who has claimed on multiple occasions that doctors are giving exams for medical cannabis in strip clubs and hotel rooms.
KELOLAND News has reached out to individuals throughout the medical cannabis industry in the state to ask if there have been any documented cases of such things. According to multiple sources, there have been zero reports of examinations taking place in strip clubs, and the only report of operations in a bar is that of the situation involving former Secy. Adam.
According to one of the proponents for HB 1154, some practitioners in rural areas have operated out of hotels. KELOLAND News reached out to Deutsch himself to ask if he could provide documentation of any accounts of strip club exams, but he would not, instead answering only “Google it. Talk to people. Do your research.”
As to the idea of the ‘rubber stamp certification’ concern Deutsch noted, it is unclear how such a certification could happen, as the DOH, as noted above, would still need to approve the patient’s certification, and would have already have had to approve the practitioner to make the certification.
Deutsch also seemed upset that the bill hadn’t gone through the MMOC. “I question if this bill isn’t a double standard,” he complained. “Yesterday we heard a lot of pushback that well, one bill [HB 1129] hadn’t gone through the oversight committee, and I don’t think any bills have to go through the oversight committee frankly, but I just want the same standard applied to all the bills.”
Speaking next, Democrat Rep. Erin Healy responded to Deutsch’s complaint that the bill addresses practitioners and not facilities.
“Just read the title of the bill,” she said, doing so. “An act to modify acceptable conduct for practitioners — We are only talking about practitioners and when they are going to get in trouble, so while I understand that, Representative Deutsch, you may see that there are still issues here, that’s another bill for another day.”
Following Healy’s statement, a do-pass motion was made and seconded on the bill, however, Deutsch interjected with substitute motion before vote could be called, asking the committee to kill the bill by deferring it to the 41st day. This was seconded by Schaefbauer.
Commenting on Deutsch’s motion, Republican Rep. Taylor Rehfeldt expanded on Healy’s statements about the need to focus on the purpose of the bill. “This bill is this bill. There are other bills, but we need to concentrate on what this one does,” she said.
Rehfeldt also pushed back on Deutsch’s complaint about a double standard regarding the MMOC.
“The [MMOC] looks at issues, tries to find solutions and occasionally, potentially, will probably propose legislation,” Rehfeldt said. “The key difference between this bill and the other bills that have been brought forward, is there’s consensus. These was no opposition testimony. They are clearly in consensus on this issue.”
Deutsch spoke one last time before the vote on his motion, repeating that he still thinks there is a double standard, and that he thinks the bill is too limited because he doesn’t think practitioners, who he earlier said are rubber stamping certifications out of strip clubs, would ever place advertisements. “I think it’s just fluff because come on, how many doctors are really going to put out those ads,” he said.
Republican Rep. Gary Cammack spoke moments before the vote to defer, praising the measure and asking his colleagues to resist Deutsch’s action.
Deutsch’s motion failed 2-11 with only himself and Schaefbauer supporting it.
“Got my butt kicked pretty good on the last one,” Deutsch said after Jensen asked for comments on the original do-pass motion. “So I’ll probably decide what I’m going to do on this one, thank you.”
“Thank you for that unsolicited comment,” Jensen replied, proceeding to call the vote. The do-pass motion passed 11-2.