'Critical Threat' to Medical Marijuana Eases Amid Consideration of Nine Cannabis Bills

A Senate committee led by a member of the state’s Medical Marijuana Oversight Committee voted against a bill Wednesday that would have had big effects on people who use weed.

Seven of the nine bills that would change South Dakota’s medical cannabis laws are still alive in Pierre. These include bills to raise the cost of a dispensary license, let police search dispensaries, and require prescribers to let a patient’s primary care provider know when they get a card.

Senate Bill 82, which has since been shelved, was the most worrying for people who support weed, according to Jeremiah Murphy, a lobbyist for the weed Industry Association of South Dakota.

It would have said that people could only get medical marijuana cards from their main care provider or a provider that refers them to one. It would also have explained who a primary care provider is. People who were against it said it made it easier for doctors who recommend marijuana to be charged with a crime.

McCarthy told South Dakota Searchlight that Senate Bill 82 was “without a doubt the most serious threat” that was out there. This was after the bill lost 5-2 in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. “A lot of patients had something to say about that one.” When they poked the box, the bees came out.

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Sen. Erin Tobin, R-Winner, made up her mind because doctors could be charged with crimes. He is the head of the Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee and works as a nurse. Sen. Jim Mehlhaff, R-Pierre, who is in charge of the bill, and she are both on the Medical Marijuana Oversight Committee.

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A lot of people have told Mehlhaff what they think about his bill, he said. “You’re trying to undo the will of the people,” he said several times in reference to the ballot question that allowed medical marijuana four years ago. Mehlhaff said, “That’s not true.” “I’m not doing that.” He put forward the bill as a solution to “pop-up clinics” and “satellite medical offices,” which give patients a way to get a medical marijuana card without going to a regular clinic.

The initiative that made medical cannabis legal was backed by 74% of voters in 2020. Its language said that medical cards would be given to patients through a provider with whom the patient has a “bona fide doctor-patient relationship,” such as through a prescription or a referral from the doctor.

Not in Mehlhaff’s bill. Instead, it would have removed that phrase, defined “primary care provider,” and made it clear that doctors who write marijuana prescriptions without knowing the patient first are likely to be charged with a class 2 misdemeanor.

So far, the language hasn’t stopped people from abusing the system, Mehlhaff said. The rule says that doctors must have a “bona fide” relationship with their patients before writing a prescription for marijuana. Mehlhaff said, “It’s not being followed.”

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