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South Dakota Senate Authorizes Lawmakers To Set Medical Pot Conditions

Lawmakers in South Dakota on Thursday took a step toward making significant changes to the state’s medical cannabis program.

The Republican-controlled state Senate approved a bill that would broaden the list of qualifying conditions for a medical marijuana prescription, while also transferring the power to set those conditions from the South Dakota Department of Health to the state legislature.

According to local news station KELO the bill was passed with a vote of 20-15. The legislation is now moving to the state House of Representatives where Republicans still hold a large majority. 

Under South Dakota’s medical cannabis law, a patient with one of the following “debilitating conditions” may use medical cannabis once he or she obtains approval from the Department of Health: A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces one or more of the following: cachexia or wasting syndrome; severe, debilitating pain; severe nausea; seizures; or severe and persistent muscle spasms. 

The legislation that was approved by the state Senate on Thursday would broaden the list of debilitating conditions to also include the following: Acquired immune deficiency syndrome or positive status for human immunodeficiency virus; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Multiple sclerosis; Cancer or its treatment, if associated with Crohn’s disease; Epilepsy and seizures; Glaucoma; or Post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Also, the bill removes language from the law that allows the Department of Health to decide which conditions are covered. 

The measure was endorsed by a special legislative committee charged with providing oversight to the state’s medical cannabis law, which was approved by voters in 2020. 

The chair of that committee, Republican state Sen. Erin Tobin, “said taking away the department’s authority to set conditions and putting it with lawmakers instead gave her more confidence to prescribe medical marijuana for a patient,” KELO reported. 

KELO reported that Tobin noted that “the department doesn’t have a medical professional on its staff to decide on conditions.”

“This is something the Department of Health needs,” Tobin said, as quoted by KELO.

The proposal was opposed by legislators who argued that South Dakota voters approved it in 2020. They explicitly authorized the Department of Health to make such a decision.

South Dakota’s medical cannabis law officially took effect in the summer of 2021, but the state’s first licensed dispensary did not open until last year. 

Republicans in Washington are wary about the proposed medical cannabis law. They fear it may open up the doors to recreational marijuana use. 

The state’s voters rejected a November initiated measure that would have legalized South Dakota recreational marijuana. This was a disappointment for those who had believed they were on top two years ago. 

Voters in 2020 approved the Medical Cannabis Measure and an Amendment that would legalize recreational marijuana. 

South Dakota’s governor challenged the amendment right away. Kristi Noem challenged the amendment immediately and it was ultimately rejected by South Dakota’s Supreme Court in November 2021. 

Noem was thrilled with the decision.

“South Dakota is a place where the rule of law and our Constitution matter, and that’s what today’s decision is about,” Noem said at the time. “We do things right—and how we do things matters just as much as what we are doing. Our lives are still guided by the law. This decision does not affect my Administration’s implementation of the medical cannabis program voters approved in 2020. That program was launched earlier this month, and the first cards have already gone out to eligible South Dakotans.”