SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — This week, the South Dakota legislature passed a bill adding eight new medical conditions to the state’s medical cannabis program. We look at what the new measure means for patients and dispensaries across KELOLAND in Your Money Matters.
“It’s going to open up the opportunity for this medicine to reach more people,” B.J. Olson, Unity Rd Hartford owner, said.
Under the state’s current medical marijuana laws, a doctor can prescribe a patient to the program based on their symptoms. This new law spells out eight health conditions that will automatically qualify someone for a medical marijuana card in South Dakota.
“Before it was based on symptoms; now it’s based on conditions that have standard definitions in the medical field. Hope is it’s going to give confidence to some doctors and health care providers that are reluctant or hesitant; now they’ll feel comfortable in moving forward with a recommendation,” Matthew Schweich, Executive Director of South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, said.
South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws hope this change will resolve a key problem they’ve seen since the state’s medical marijuana program began.
“A lot of people have found it very difficult to get recommendations. I’ve met people personally who had MS, other serious conditions that can’t find a doctor or the doctor they’ve gone to for years just can’t feel comfortable writing a recommendation. With specific conditions being listed, it makes the process more clear to those health care providers,” Schweich said.
Right now, there are just 8,100 medical cannabis patients licensed in South Dakota.
“As far as dispensaries open, there’s about 30 or 40 of them licensed across the state. When you break it down that’s not many patients per dispensary,” Olson said.
Unity Rd was the first dispensary to open nearly seven months ago and says they still get calls every day with people asking how to get their medical marijuana card.
“Like finding a needle in a haystack to find a doctor that can help you get a medical card,” Olson said.
Advocates hope this new legislation will help more doctors feel confident in helping qualifying patients join the program.
“That’s my hope of the effect of this legislation is to make it easier for doctors to prescribe them to patients who really need them,” Schweich said.