PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — HB 1058, a bill designed to ban a variety of forms of medical cannabis from being sold in South Dakota passed the House State Affairs Committee Wednesday morning on a narrow vote of 7-6.
The debate of the bill was spirited, with three South Dakotans speaking in opposition, and seven speaking in favor, all but one of whom were from out of state, with five being from Colorado and one from Ontario, Canada.
Rep. Fred Deutsch (R-Florence) introduced the bill, which he sponsored, to the committee, claiming that it was needed to protect children. Deutsch seemed to focus primarily on edibles, THC infused products meant to be eaten, and stated that such products are “manufactured specifically to appeal to children.”
Deutsch was quick to point out that while his bill would ban the sale of edibles in South Dakota, parents of child patients would still be allowed to purchase medical marijuana in flower form and bake their own edibles for their children to consume.
Deutsch was not alone in this, as another proponent of the bill, Dr. Libby Stuyt, a Colorado psychiatrist also emphasized that parents would still be able to make their own edibles at home.
This suggestion that parents make their own edibles seems to conflict with concerns other concerns voiced by those promoting the bill however, as many spoke about the dangers of edibles due to their potency and the time it takes for them to take effect.
Kittrick Jeffries, an opponent of the bill and owner of Dakota Cannabis Consulting outlined the reason why DIY edibles are riskier, pointing out that the cannabis butter used in baking edibles can easily be unevenly disbursed in a homemade product, leading to differences in potency from one area to the next.
Simply put, a home baker making a pan of pot brownies could end up with a batch where one brownie has almost no potency, while another has extremely high THC content.
Ned Horsted, Executive Director of the Cannabis Industry Association of South Dakota, another opponent of the bill, points out that dispensary bought edibles are much safer in this regard, as licensed products are required to be lab tested, ensuring consistent potencies and dosages.
Several of those providing proponent testimony provided anecdotal stories of children they know or had heard about that had ingested edibles that they had mistaken for candy.
One woman discussed how her son, a promising young athlete had become addicted to marijuana. “He disconnected from his life, from sports, from girls,” the mother explained. Another proponent discussed the wide variety of products available, such as those made with rainbow sprinkles, which she said most adults don’t eat.
While accidental ingestion of cannabis products by children undoubtedly happens, Rep. Jamie Smith (D-Sioux Falls) committee member and House Minority Leader described these stories to a sort of fearmongering.
“The proponents of that bill spread a lot of fear with different types of edibles in medical marijuana,” said Smith. “Most of the examples they were using however I believe came from recreational marijuana states — they also ignored the fact that a rule was already written and in place to take care of some of their concerns.”
This rule was mentioned during opponent testimony by Horsted, who pointed out that concerns such as cartoon packaging and marketing of products to children that were listed by proponents are already explicitly prohibited in the rules approved by the South Dakota Department of Health.
“The rules that were made by the Department of Health we believe are good,” said Smith. “I believe that we’re setting up a good program here in our state, and I don’t believe that changing the law before really it even begins is necessary.”
Smith says that in reality, what this bill does is take options away from patients.
Another opponent of the bill, Emmett Reistroffer of Sioux Falls, sought to push back on claims made by proponents about packaging and labeling.
One of these claims, made by Dr. Stuyt was that patients in Colorado could buy a cookie with 1,000 milligrams of THC, with which the intended dosage was 1/10th of the cookie. Reistroffer, who claimed to have experience in cannabis product manufacturing, said that this was not a legitimate concern, stating that manufacturers are required to place THC symbols on each serving, and each serving must be packaged separately into single servings.
“That 1/10th of a cookie analogy is just not legitimate when you’re talking about the regulated market,” said Reistroffer, adding that South Dakota has one of the lowest potency limits in the nation for cannabis products, allowing only 10 milligrams per serving.
Beyond rebuttals of specific claims, opponents also lamented the way this bill could impact the cannabis industry. “I feel like the rug is being pulled out from underneath us,” said Reistroffer, who said that businesses were already building and planning under the parameters of the law as it currently exists.
Horsted also had a similar take, pointing out that restricting how medical cannabis can be sold could ‘outlaw’ innovation, and make it more difficult for patients to get the medicine they need. He also added that the main groups who benefit from restricting the medical marijuana market are big pharmaceutical companies and the black market.
Horsted also pointed out in an email to KELOLAND News that this bill would not only prohibit edibles, but would also ban all cannabis products not in the following exclusive list:
- Vaporized delivery method with the use of liquid or oil that does not require the use of dried leaves or plant form
- Pill, capsule or tablet
- Topical application
- Transdermal patch
Having passed the committee, the bill will now move to the full House for consideration, if passed there, it will need to then be approved by a Senate committee, the full Senate and the Governor before becoming law.
KELOLAND News reached out to Deutsch for comment on the bill, including his claim that products are manufactured specifically to appeal to children. While he didn’t provide a specific answer to that question, he did share a link to a ‘white paper’ he says clearly identifies his concern with THC edibles that are attractive to kids and a link to photos said to have been purchased directly from licensed dispensaries across the United States.
None of the products listed are marketed as intended for children.
“Beautiful baked goods with sprinkles and fruit flavored sodas are not medicine but a way to hide THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis,” Deutsch wrote in his email.