South Dakota Seeks Changes to Medical Rules

Finally, medical cannabis is legal in South Dakota, a state that legalized in 2020 before facing numerous hurdles in order to make medical pot official. And still, the state’s dispensaries haven’t started distributing it. The next step to make that happen is a change in regulations, which is currently in the works behind the scenes. 

In South Dakota, medical cannabis is overseen by The South Dakota Department of Health. They recently held a public hearing to go over proposed changes and how things could move forward in the state if approved. Despite the hearing taking place on June 21, there is still time to submit written comments on the changes. Comments will be accepted through July 1, either by email or snail mail. 

Once the final comments are received, the department will make a decision. The changes must first be analyzed by the Legislature’s Rules Review Committee, which will make a decision on those proposed changes at their July 19 meeting. 

These changes are separate from those already approved that take place on July 1, the Legislature’s code counsel, John McCullough, pointed out. The other changes referenced are those that were approved by Senate Bill 4 when it passed during the most recent legislative session.

These already approved changes include a major milestone for healthcare providers. According to this change, a physician no longer is required to state that the patient will be likely to receive therapeutic or palliative benefits from medical cannabis in the case that it is prescribed. Instead, they only have to state that the patient has a debilitating medical condition, not that it is likely to be treated successfully by cannabis. This takes a lot of weight off of the physicians when it comes to new types of treatment like legal weed. 

Originally, under Measure 26, which was approved by voters in the 2020 election, when cannabis was legalized. The South Dakota State Medical Association opposed that wording, as it essentially forced prescribing doctors to say that cannabis would help, not just that it was an option. 

Currently, debilitating conditions approved to be treated with medical cannabis in South Dakota include: 

  • Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) and positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Cancer associated with severe or chronic pain, nausea or severe vomiting, or cachexia or severe wasting
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Epilepsy and seizures
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

To add other conditions, there is currently an application process to see if more qualified conditions will be approved in the future. These were all approved last year in September, and through a final hearing round in October of 2021. 

So far, there seems to be a big desire for medical cannabis in South Dakota based on how well a tribal dispensary is serving its community, and the fact that the state hit over 1,000 medical cards given out. The flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe currently operates a dispensary legally on their property, which is north of Sioux Falls. Their data shows that more than 10,000 people have registered with the tribe for medical cards since July 1 of last year. The state department of health reported 1,121 patient cards as of June 13. 

It remains to be seen exactly what changes will be requested by the community during the comment period, but it’s clear that the community is hungry and ready for legal cannabis in their state after a long wait since legalization. In the meantime, the community will be getting comments together to try and build a better medical cannabis community in South Dakota. 


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