SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Mayson Bedient, is a South Dakota doctor of osteopathy. He works with MyMarijuanaCards (MMC), a business that came to South Dakota to help connect patients with doctors who will assist them is assessing their need for medical marijuana.
Bedient estimates that he has so far recommended around 400 patients to the state.
This is an important number, 400, considering that as of the most recent update, the state has reported a total of 1,150 total patient cards authorized. This means that Bedient alone could be responsible for about 34.78% of all South Dakota state patient cards issued.
Two other doctors work with MMC in South Dakota as well, making up the remaining 300 patients that have been recommended by MMC.
With three doctors being responsible for roughly 60% of all cards issued by the state, the remaining 40% is split between 103 other physicians approved by the Department of Health (DOH).
Some may raise an eyebrow at the idea that the man who has assisted 400 people in getting medical cards is an osteopath, and not an M.D. KELOLAND News asked Bedient about this.
“There’s not a lot of differences (between D.O.s and M.D.s),” said Bedient. “The main difference is in our training. We are credentialed and licensed to do the same things as an M.D., we just get a little bit of extra training in musculoskeletal medicine.”
Bedient wants to make it clear that he and MMC were not a group of ‘quacks’ who just rubber-stamped applications.
Bedient specified that osteopaths are licensed and credentialed under the South Dakota Board of Medical and Osteopathic Examiners, just as an M.D. is.
Bedient also did four years of medical school, as well as three years of residency in Pennsylvania. “I did three years of training, just like every family medicine [practitioner], M.D. or D.O.,” he said. He has also passed the board exams required for both D.O.s and M.D.s.
Not many doctors have taken the steps to get approved by the state program; only 106 have. The identities of these doctors are also not known to the public, or even to many physicians. Bedient pointed out that the only other physicians he knows that do it are ones he knows personally. Few doctors, it seems, are eager to be seen as ‘the pot doctor’ by the people of South Dakota.
This perception is not a huge worry to Bedient. “I believe in getting access to people, and it’s hard to do that if they can’t find you.”
That being said, he also isn’t going to provide services for anyone who asks.
“I have rules and guidelines — [MMC] has rules and guidelines that I follow when I work for them, and in my own practice, I also have my own guidelines,” said Bedient. “I don’t see people only for this. I have to be available for follow-ups.”
Essentially, Bedient will not consult on medical marijuana for a person who he cannot form a doctor/patient relationship with. “It’s not just ‘write a card and see you later’,” he explained. “I expect to see these people once a year — that’s kind of the requirement.”
In addition to this requirement, MMC and Bedient also have their own screening processes for deciding if they will see a patient. Patients must provide their medical records ahead of time, and those without a qualifying diagnosis in most cases will never reach his office.
“Have I denied people? Yes. Usually for either for not having enough documentation or for not having a diagnosis that fits what the state will allow,” Bedient said.
Bedient got involved with MMC because he knew that medical marijuana was something he wanted to incorporate into his practice. “It’s something I believe in. I believe it should be available to patients.”
In total, Bedient says he averages about one weekend a month working for MMC. He says he’s willing to commit that time in order to be involved in getting the program off the ground. “We who are jumping on at the very beginning are going to have the opportunity to kind of shape how it runs and how the policies work,” he said.
Bedient said the most common condition patients come to him with (of which only six are codified), is chronic pain, though many cancer patients have also sought treatment.
Many of his patients have never used marijuana before. “Especially among the older patients who are looking at this for maybe a chronic arthritis pain or an old back injury,” he said.
As a matter of fact, many of the patients are older. “People are picturing, probably, your 20-somethings — and we absolutely get some of those — but you also see a lot more of the older patients than you think you’re going to,” said Bedient.
Many of these older patients are actually veterans. Since marijuana is federally illegal still, the VA cannot prescribe it.
For those who may have been looking for a doctor to speak to about medical marijuana, Bedient says you can reach out to him, though he says in most cases he will refer the person to MMC due to his guidelines about who and how he will work with patients.
“If anyone has questions, they can certainly go onto MyMarijuanaCards’ website and ask questions,” Bedient said. “We’d like to help the people who need the help.”