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Proposal would increase oversight, penalties on South Dakota 'pop-up shops' prescribing marijuana

Opponents of the proposal call it "a step backward" in the state's nascent medicinal cannabis program.

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Sen. Erin Tobin, of Winner, answers questions during a Jan. 19 debate in the Senate. Tobin, who chaired the Medical Marijuana Oversight Council, said she opposes the use of 'pop-up shops' but believes the only way forward is to get more reputable providers participating in the program.
Jason Harward / Forum News Service
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PIERRE, S.D. — With a few years under the belt of the state’s medical marijuana program, a group of lawmakers led by Fred Deutsch, of Florence — who was involved in the opposition to recreational cannabis this past election cycle — is looking to give teeth to the state’s oversight on doctors prescribing cannabis, especially those who advertise their services.

House Bill 1102, which was introduced earlier this week by Deutsch and carries 13 total sponsors and co-sponsors, would remove the ability for physicians, physician assistants or an advanced practice registered nurse to prescribe medicinal cannabis for six months if they fail to develop a treatment plan that includes considerations of side effects and involves follow-up consultations, among a multi-pronged set of other requirements and documentations.

“The [current] law requires that there be a bona fide doctor-patient relationship. Well, it also requires that there be a chronic or severe disabling condition. How do you assess somebody in five minutes or less with a longstanding, severe condition?” Deutsch said about the problems with the way that medicinal cannabis law in South Dakota has been implemented. “How do you check if they are on medications that have adverse health effects to marijuana? How do you check if they have any conditions like psychosis and many other types of things?”

Particularly, the bill is targeted at “pop-up shops,” where eligible providers supposedly prescribe cannabis to patients who they often have never previously met.

During debate last week over a different medical marijuana provision adding certain qualifying conditions to statute, Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller, of Rapid City, held up a pamphlet advertising one of these outfits, a Rapid City-based clinic in the local Hampton Inn reading, “We Certify Patients for Medical Marijuana.” Below that, the advertisement offered a “Buy One, Get One” half-priced sale “when you and a friend book on the same day.”

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In attempting to nip this practice in the bud, Deutsch’s bill levies that same six-month revocation of prescription privileges on providers that advertise in a fashion that “guarantees or promises the issuance of a written certification or participation in the medical cannabis program or implies such a guarantee or promise,” among other statements Deutsch sees as misleading.

“Our overall concern is the safety of South Dakotans. It has to be,” Deutsch said. “When we're doing these clinics that advertise five-minute exams, buy one, get one half off, that are advertising different fees for different certification lengths, that are holding their offices in strip clubs and bars, that’s a concern.”

According to Sen. Erin Tobin, who chairs the Medical Marijuana Oversight Council, while there are some benefits to Deutsch’s bill with some tweaks, she felt that the way the proposal is written now could potentially accomplish nearly the opposite of its intentions.

The reason for her concern, she says, is that the cause of these “pop-up shops” is the lack of physicians who have signed up for the program, creating a market of patients looking to access cannabis from which these “pop-up shops” can profit.

While the proposed legislation may punish some of these shops that have not established a bona fide relationship with their patients, her concern is that the lengthy oversight and paperwork the bill would require of providers could become a new barrier of entry for physicians, further harming take-up of the program from more reputable providers.

“We have been trying to take these small steps forward, and I worry this could be a step backward,” Tobin said.

MORE BY JASON HARWARD
“We left last session thinking there would be a pot of money set aside for country incarceration needs," Sen. Helene Duhamel, of Rapid City, said. That funding never materialized.

Jason Harward is a Report for America corps reporter who writes about state politics in South Dakota. Contact him at 605-301-0496 or jharward@forumcomm.com.

Related Topics: MARIJUANA
Jason Harward covers South Dakota news for Forum News Service. Email him at jharward@forumcomm.com.
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