Cannabidiol medicine one step closer to legalization

Published: Mar. 3, 2017 at 5:04 PM CST
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South Dakota lawmakers are one step closer to approving a bill to allow the use of cannabidiol medicine in the state.

The house health and human services committee passed the bill in a 7-3 vote Thursday.

The bill has two purposes: to illuminate cannabidiol products from the state's definition of marijuana and to spell out which forms of the medication will be allowed in the state.

Right now, the bill includes an FDA approval requirement that supporters say would limit the market for the medicine in South Dakota.

“It would create a monopoly in our state," Melissa Mentele with New Approach South Dakota said. "There is one company, GW pharmaceuticals, that is currently going through the FDA approval process."

Mentele has been a longtime advocate for legalizing medical marijuana in South Dakota. She says there are many less expensive products available in the U.S.

“If GW pharmaceuticals language was left in Senate Bill 95, it would make the current products that children are using go from $120 to $150 a month to $2500 to $5000 a month,” Mentele said.

A number Mentele says would be impossible for many South Dakota families to afford.

“Who's going to write that check? Logistically it’s a nightmare, because one thing you don't have when you have a special needs child is a bank account with $100,000 in it,” Sioux Falls dad Greg Hendrickson said.

Hendrickson’s four-year-old son Eliyah suffers from Dravet Syndrome, a rare disorder that causes frequent seizures.

“We went through a series of seizures where he was having seven or eight of them every night for weeks,” Hendrickson said.

Eliyah’s parents say CBD oils are a proven treatment to help minimize the effects of those seizures.

“I know of children who have gone from not walking and not talking and 300 seizures a day, to inside of six months having a 300 word vocabulary and being able to ride a bike, just by a CBD strain,” Hendrickson said.

While CBD oils can be legally purchased in South Dakota right now, Hendrickson says as long as cannabidiols are classified as marijuana, giving the medicine to his son would be a felony.

“It’s amazing that it’s this hard to get something that has no psychoactive value whatsoever available to my kid, legally,” Henrickson said. “I can buy it all day long in this town, but I can't legally give it to him without fear of prosecution.”

Hendrickson has spent two years working with lawmakers to pass this legislation. While the House committee passing the bill is a step forward, he says a similar bill made it to this point last year but was then killed on the house floor.

Supporters like Hendrickson say South Dakota is only one of eight states that do not allow some form of this medical treatment.