Bill would add conditions for medical marijuana, but also repeal public process
Lobbyist Jeremiah Murphy testifies in favor of a bill that would add eight conditions to those that qualify for a medical marijuana card during a hearing Jan. 18, 2023, at the Capitol in Pierre. (Joshua Haiar/SD Searchlight)
PIERRE — A bill in the Legislature would add eight conditions to those that qualify a patient for a medical marijuana card, but the bill would also remove a public process to add more conditions to the list.
A legislative committee approved the bill Wednesday on a 6-1 vote and sent it to the full Senate for further consideration.
Current state law allows patients with debilitating medical conditions to obtain a medical marijuana card. The law defines those conditions broadly as “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 law does not list specific diseases or conditions.
The new bill would retain that definition and add eight conditions: immune deficiency syndrome, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, cancer or its treatment, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy and seizures, glaucoma, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
But the bill would also eliminate a section of existing law that lays out a public process for petitioning more conditions onto the list.
The bill’s prime sponsor, Sen. Erin Tobin, R-Winner, explained that provision.
“The way we had it before is that people could petition to have a condition added and there were a lot of requirements that came with that,” Tobin said. “The thing that happened is there weren’t any conditions that went through the whole process.”
Justin Schweitzer, an optometrist, took issue with a few of the conditions listed in the bill, like glaucoma – an eye disease that can cause vision loss and blindness by damaging nerves in the back of the eye. He said there are good existing treatments.
“When we look at our current FDA approved methods, we have good drops that are dosed one time a day, sometimes twice a day,” Schweitzer said. “We have laser procedures.”
Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller, R-Rapid City, said the Senate Health and Human Services Committee is not qualified to say what conditions should go into the law.
“I will be voting no,” Frye-Mueller said. “We shouldn’t be taking the place of the FDA.”
Frye-Mueller cast the only vote against the bill.
Sen. Michael Rohl, R-Aberdeen, pointed out that the bill would only provide options for physicians and patients.
“Is there anything in this bill that would require you to write a prescription for a patient that came in with glaucoma?” Rohl asked Dr. Schweitzer.
“No, I still have the choice,” Schweitzer responded.
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