When the voters approved Initiated Measure 26 allowing for use of medical marijuana in South Dakota, the vote was overwhelming. Now the Legislature is wrestling with how to make sure South Dakota patients have access to safe and effective medical marijuana. In visiting with other legislators, we want to make sure the measure is implemented in a prudent manner.

According to the Mayo Clinic, medical marijuana contains two active compounds that are of interest for medical purposes: THC the primary ingredient in marijuana that makes people “high,” and CBD (cannabidiol). Under federal law, CBD derived from the hemp plant with less than 0.3% THC is legal to consume. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved one cannabis-derived and three cannabis-related drugs for treating side effects from chemotherapy or AIDS, and for treating patients with severe forms of childhood epilepsy.

Proponents of IM26 want health care professionals to be able to prescribe medical marijuana to “alleviate suffering and help patients in cases where other medications are ineffective or less safe.” Opponents maintain that marijuana is highly addictive and hazardous, and “does not possess characteristics to be considered legitimate medication.”

To help answer questions in this area of public policy, the State contracted with Cannabis Public Policy Consulting, a group that has worked with government, research institutions, communities, and private businesses to “get legalization right.” We have been told that it takes a minimum of 14 months, and sometimes much longer, to implement a safe and effective program.

In the next week, legislators will be considering House Bill 1100, which does two things. First, it provides additional flexibility on the implementation timeline, allowing the medicinal marijuana program to take effect on July 1, 2022. Additionally, it sets up an interim committee to take public input between now and next legislative session on questions that need more clarification. Among the questions are, what testing is needed to ensure that products are safe for human consumption, who should regulate licensed establishments, and whether marijuana should be allowed to be grown at home.

Mary Duvall JPG

Sen. Mary Duvall

I believe some people may find relief for certain ailments through use of medical marijuana. However, we need a safe and effective program that will work for all South Dakota.

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