PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota lawmakers could be asked in their 2023 session to consider listing specific debilitating health conditions that patients must have for medical marijuana cards.
The Legislature’s Medical Marijuana Oversight Committee unanimously endorsed the potential change Tuesday.
The proposal came from the state Department of Health that runs South Dakota’s medical marijuana program.
As part of that potential legislation, the department also wants a section of state law repealed that currently lets people privately petition the department to add a debilitating condition.
Committee members Melissa Mentele of Emery and Liz Tiger of Spearfish spoke against the repeal. Mentele was the author of IM 26 legalizing medical marijuana, which nearly 70% of South Dakota voters supported in 2020.
The proposal now goes to the Legislature’s Executive Board for a decision on moving it forward.
The oversight committee also wants the Executive Board to look into ways for armed-forces veterans to get access to medical marijuana.
The federal Veterans Administration and the federal Indian Health Service don’t allow their physicians to write medical marijuana recommendations. The federal government considers marijuana a controlled substance subject to criminal penalties.
Committee member Brian Doherty of Fort Pierre, a veteran who served in Iraq, brought possible legislation that was based in part on a North Dakota law giving veterans access to medical marijuana there.
Doherty said other veterans have been approaching him because he serves on the committee. “That’s my reasoning,” he said.
The committee received a presentation on the department’s progress in getting the program running.
Administrator Chris Qualm said the department had approved 4,202 patients and 159 physicians and other practitioners as of Monday, October 24.
But Mentele and Tiger said finding a physician who can affirm a patient’s need for medical marijuana has often been difficult. They said that’s led to pop-up clinics, which the committee discussed but didn’t take any action.
Mentele said South Dakota has more than 9,200 physicians.