S.D. lawmakers’ panel wants home-cultivated medical cannabis to be illegal, contrary to IM 26

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The Legislature’s medical-marijuana subcommittee voted 6-4 Wednesday to overturn a key part of Initiated Measure 26 and make home-cultivated cannabis illegal in South Dakota.

But the panel fell one aye short of recommending the repeal of part of another state law that affects medical practitioners.

Physicians currently are required to say that their patients are likely to receive a therapeutic or palliative benefit when a patient applies for a medical card from the state Department of Health.

The South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations however wants it removed. The subcommittee’s vote was 5-4. That meant it failed because a majority of six was needed from its 11 members.

The recommendations go next in the coming weeks to the Legislature’s full marijuana-study committee for a second vote on whether they should advance to the 2022 legislative session.

Representative Fred Deutsch said he wasn’t comfortable with the change for physicians.

“We have a diagnosis-based medical system,” Deutsch, a retired chiropractor, said. Removing the requirement would make physicians “just a front” and would do “a great disservice to our public.” He added, “Let’s not turn our medical into a recreational program.”

Representative Taylor Rehfeldt, a certified nurse anesthetist, chaired the workgroup. She said it was important to remember the bona fide patient-provider relationship has to exist. She said there are no other medications where a physician has to say there is a therapeutic or palliative benefit.

Physicians aren’t trying to be unaccountable, Rehfeldt said.

Deutsch countered that voters passed IM 26 last year and the marijuana industry wrote it. ”If we really want to have a medical program, let’s have a medical program. Let’s not use the doctors as scapegoats to have a recreational program,” Deutsch said.

Deutsch led the charge to make home-grown cannabis illegal. IM 26 set a three-plant minimum. State rules now cap homegrown at three plants.

Staci Ackerman, representing the South Dakota Sherriff’s Association, called for its repeal. Beadle County Sheriff Doug Solem said, “Our marijuana industry in South Dakota needs to be controlled.”

Senator Troy Heinert said the public voted for it by “an overwhelming majority” of nearly 70% in the November 2020 election. “Homegrown is here,” Heinert said. 

Other recommendations made Wednesday included:

Numbers 9, 13, 16, 23, 24, 26, 27, 28, 34 and 35 from the public-safety working group’s report. Amendments were made to 13 and 34.

Number 15 from the medical and cards working group’s report.

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