S.D. lawmakers to weigh medical cannabis rules, after a long, careful process getting them ready

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The Legislature’s Rules Review Committee will scrutinize on Monday whether the state Department of Health has adopted the right rules, as South Dakota gets ready to enter the world of legal medical cannabis.

Health Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon said her staff, as well as others throughout state government, took special steps after 69.9% of voters approved IM 26 last November.

In January, the department contracted with a national consultant. The department drew on the experiences of other states, spent months meeting with various interested groups, and held two statewide telephone call-ins to hear from citizens.

A special internet portal was created on the department’s website. Governor Kristi Noem, who campaigned against IM 26, broadcast public-service announcements promising a safe program.

All of that came before the formal rules hearing August 18.

The department in turn revised dozens of areas in the proposal, according to Malsam-Rysdon. She said the department received 232 comments. About one-fourth couldn’t be done because state laws didn’t allow them.

“We’ve made some substantive changes,” Malsam-Rysdon told KELOLAND News in an interview. The proposal now is 124 pages. She said she was “optimistic” the legislators will accept them.

The new laws require the rules to be in place by October 29 and the department to be ready to issue cards on November 18.

The six legislators who conduct the review Monday have a record of being tough on medical cannabis regulations. They initially refused to accept the state Department of Education’s rules for K-12 schools and forced the department to go back, make changes and return for a second appearance.

Under the proposed Department of Health rules that will be up Monday, the state licensing fee is capped at $5,000 for establishments, whether they be commercial cultivation sites, processors, testing facilities or retail outlets. The amount was set when voters passed IM 26. Malsam-Rysdon said it is the lowest in the nation.

Counties and municipalities can impose additional fees.

A proposed rule would require that a license holder go into business within one year or the license will be revoked. Malsam-Rysdon said that’s to discourage business people from sitting on unused retail licenses.

The annual fee for a card application would be $75, with a $20 fee for those who qualify for low-income. Home-cultivation would cost an additional $20. Adding a caregiver would cost $20.

Malsam-Rysdon said the new laws require the department to set the card-holder fees so that they cover the estimated cost of the program. She said the fee amounts could be adjusted in the future.

IM 26 sets a minimum of three marijuana plants for people who qualify for home-cultivation cards based on the recommendations from their medical practitioners. The department’s proposed rule would cap home cultivation at three plants, unless the practitioner says in writing that more plants should be allowed. The three-plant exemption would expire after 200 days. Renewals would be allowed.

The proposed rule states, “Unless the practitioner specifies a greater number, a practitioner’s recommendation that the patient be allowed to cultivate cannabis allows a patient to cultivate three plants.”

The exception requires the practitioner to state specifically the reason. Those include:

“(1) The research on which the practitioner relied in calculating the amount of cannabis required by the patient and that the risks associated with using that amount of cannabis are outweighed by the benefits;

“(2) The difficulty the patient would experience in obtaining an adequate supply of cannabis from dispensaries due to the patient’s place of residence or level of disability;

“(3) The practitioner’s reasoning as to why the extended plant count does not create an undue risk of diversion or abuse; and

“(4) Any other factors justifying the recommendation. A recommendation for the cultivation of more than three plants expires 200 days after the date of the recommendation.”

The proposed rules recognize eight conditions that would qualify a person to be a card-holder in South Dakota. The rules also allow a petition process to ask the department to add a condition.

The proposed conditions are:

(1) Acquired immune deficiency syndrome and positive status for human
immunodeficiency virus;

(2) Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis;

(3) Multiple sclerosis;

(4) Cancer or its treatment, if associated with severe or chronic pain, nausea or severe
vomiting, or cachexia or severe wasting;

(5) Crohn’s disease;

(6) Epilepsy and seizures;

(7) Glaucoma; and

(8) Post-traumatic stress disorder.

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