PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — State representatives just said no Wednesday to patients using telehealth to consult with practitioners about medical marijuana or to obtain a prescription for it in South Dakota.

House members voted 38-30 against HB 1147 even though 69% of voters approved IM 26 allowing medical marijuana in the November election.

Representative Drew Dennert, the Aberdeen Republican who sponsored the legislation, said the change would allow a patient to discuss medical marijuana with “a trusted source.”

Patients also would be safer by staying out of clinics and hospitals where they could catch COVID-19 or other contagious diseases, he said.

Dennert was the youngest legislator in South Dakota history when he was elected at age 21 in 2016. “And he thinks out of the box,” said Representative Carl Perry, an Aberdeen Republican.

The first snag came when Representative Trish Ladner, a Fall River Republican, asked whether telehealth could be used for prescribing medical marijuana. Dennert said that was one of the purposes. Responded Ladner, “If they can prescribe virtually, I can’t support the bill.”

That opened the door for other opponents to speak up.

Representative Paul Miskimins, a Mitchell Republican, said telehealth would be “a great format for the future… But I don’t believe it’s ready for prime time.”

Representative Fred Deutsch, a Florence Republican, noted medical marijuana would be prescribed for people with a debilitating condition. “I’d be more comfortable if we had an in-person evaluation,” he said.

Representative Steven Haugaard, a Sioux Falls Republican, called telehealth “a little bit premature” because the state plan isn’t ready and some practitioners could be “fairly lax and loose” in prescribing.

Representative Sydney Davis, a Burbank Republican who’s a certified registered nurse anesthetist, said the bill’s definition of practitioner — “a physician who is licensed with authority to prescribe drugs to humans” — was too narrow. “It excludes other practitioners in our state like nurse practitioners and physician assistants,” she said.

Dennert in his concluding remarks said 31 states already allow telehealth relationships between patient and provider for medical marijuana.

“It’s very simple. It’s nine words,” he said.