South Dakota Moves to Restrict Medical Marijuana Program Further

The move may be the first time a state has moved to restrict rather than expand access to MMJ.

A South Dakota state legislative panel this week gave initial approval to a bill that would restrict the MMJ program by making it harder to add qualifying conditions and by writing a handful of medical ailments directly into state law.

The measure would strike down a provision allowing residents to petition the state Department of Health in order to add medical conditions to the list that qualify for treatment with medical cannabis.

It also for would enumerate that only patients with one of nine conditions are eligible for the program by eliminating a provision that allows the Health Department itself to increase the qualifying conditions.

If the bill succeeds, it may be the first time in the history of the U.S. marijuana industry that a state moved to restrict its MMJ program instead of broadening it. Typically, states that adopted restrictive medical cannabis systems eventually added more medical ailments so as to serve more patients, instead of going the opposite direction.

But the legislative Medical Marijuana Oversight Committee was concerned that so-called “pop-up clinics” have resulted in thousands of residents quickly and easily being certified to buy cannabis, and so pushed the proposal forward.

So far, the state has registered 4,202 patients, up from just a few hundred this past summer, according to media reports. But only 159 physicians have registered with the state in order to recommend medical cannabis for patients.

The committee move comes just weeks before South Dakota voters will weigh in for a second time on adult-use cannabis legalization.

Voters approved a ballot measure in 2020 to legalize recreational marijuana, but the initiative was overturned last year after a legal challenge by Gov. Kristi Noem was victorious at the state Supreme Court.

John Schroyer

John Schroyer has been a reporter since 2006, initially with a focus on politics, and covered the 2012 Colorado campaign to legalize marijuana. He has written about the cannabis industry specifically since 2014, after being on hand for the first-ever legal cannabis sales on New Year’s Day that year in Denver. John has covered subsequent marijuana market launches in California and Illinois, has written about every aspect of the marijuana trade, and was part of the team that built the cannabis industry’s first-ever trade show, MJBizCon. He joined Green Market Report in 2022.

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