Addition of PTSD, glaucoma and epilepsy to medical marijauna list moving through the state legislature
Oversight committee made the recommendations last summer. Bill would also give lawmakers more influence, hoping to simplify future requests.
PIERRE — An expansion of conditions that qualify for medical cannabis treatment in South Dakota cleared its first hurdle on Wednesday, Jan. 18.
The bill moving the through the legislature would immediately add several of the most-requested debilitating conditions to the covered list, including glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder and epilepsy. But it would also change how future expansion will happen.
The Medical Marijuana Oversight Council suggested the changes to simplify the process. Currently, individual South Dakotans can petition the state for approval of new conditions. That has proven to be too complex and not as dynamic as the original law intended, said Sen. Erin Tobin of Winner, chair of the Medical Marijuana Oversight Council this past year.
“The way we had it before is basically people could petition to be added, and several requirements fell under that including hearings, letters of support and research,” Tobin, the prime sponsor of the bill, said during testimony. “The thing that happened is that there wasn’t any condition that actually went through the whole process. And we felt that went against what the voters wanted.”
Senate Bill 1 was approved 6-1 by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
In all, eight new conditions would be added to the list. The recommendation developed from town halls held by the Department of Health and research into conditions allowed in other states, Tobin said. Were the bill to pass, the responsibility to add conditions would fall either on the legislature during session or the Medical Marijuana Oversight Council.
“At least through the legislature, we can have those people who are prescribing come and give proponent and opponent testimony,” Tobin said about the merits of leaving this to the legislature.
Dr. Bonnie Omdahl, an outspoken opponent of the failed recreational marijuana ballot measure last year, explained her concern with the legislature framing as medicine a compound she called unsafe, with side effects like psychosis and an increased rate of heart attack.
“For every other drug that we call medicine, there are extensive testings to ensure I guarantee that the conditions for which the medicine is approved is effective and as safe as can be. There is an extensive process usually, for medicines to be approved by the FDA. Frequently it takes years,” she said. “Cannabis, unlike any other medicine, has been placed outside this normal, rigorous test of efficiency and safety.”
Another opponent, Justin Schweitzer, explained that cannabis is not a superior option for controlling glaucoma, as treating the condition requires 24-hour control and, in the case of cannabis, requires a high dosage several times per day.
However, not much really changes from adding these eight conditions, explained Jeremiah Murphy, a lobbyist for the cannabis industry in support of the bill.
Other than post-traumatic stress disorder, which Murphy supported adding to the list, the other seven likely would have been covered by the catch-all portion of the law before. It says that any medical condition involving symptoms like “wasting syndrome; severe, debilitating pain; severe nausea; seizures; or severe and persistent muscle spasms.”
“All of this creates a fence around the doctor and the patients,” Murphy explained about his understanding of the purpose of the bill, saying it is up to the treating physician to consider cannabis in the context of the health of the patient and the other medication being used.
During her rebuttal to the opposition’s testimony calling medical cannabis unsafe and ineffective, Tobin said she felt the legislature had a duty to uphold the people’s will, acknowledging the final decision still rests with the doctor.
“The people decided they wanted this substance through the ballot measure, and under God, the people rule, especially in this state,” she said.
Jason Harward is a Report for America corps reporter who writes about state politics in South Dakota. Contact him at 605-301-0496 or firstname.lastname@example.org.