South Dakota’s largest health care providers proposed Monday that lawmakers drop part of the requirement for people seeking medical marijuana identification cards to obtain a physician’s recommendation to use the drug.
Under the proposal, physicians would still need to certify that patients have conditions such as severe pain, seizures or multiple sclerosis that would qualify them for a medical marijuana ID. But they would not need to specifically recommend that medical marijuana be used to treat the condition.
The proposal was welcomed by medical marijuana advocates, who have worried that patients will have a difficult time getting medical pot recommendations from physicians. Doctors have expressed hesitancy about recommending medical marijuana as the state prepares to legalize it.
Although a voter-passed law legalizing medical marijuana takes effect July 1, the full medical cannabis program is still in flux. The state has until November to start issuing ID cards, meaning people wouldn’t be able to legally buy medical cannabis until then. In the meantime, state lawmakers are planning changes to the law.
Sarah Aker, the director of fiscal policy at the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations, said there has been “a lot of concern from physicians” over the certifications for medical marijuana. She said doctors are hesitant to recommend pot because there is a lack of comprehensive research on its medical benefits, but they might be more comfortable writing certifications if they didn’t specifically recommend using cannabis.