Sioux Falls dad disappointed cannabis oil bill fails

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SIOUX FALLS - People holding out hope for the South Dakota state legislature to legalize cannabis oil to treat epilepsy will have to wait another year.

A bill which would have legalized the drug made it's way from the senate to the house where it was struck down.

Senate Bill 171 started out as a bill to legalize medical marijuana, but was revised to only cover cannabis oil.

Many still were hopeful it would pass and become law, but in a house vote of 25-to-43, that hope was lost.

Eli is a happy three-year-old boy, yet his dad George Hendrickson expresses a different range of emotions from frustration to disappointment with the South Dakota state legislature.

"On September 2nd, we had almost no idea that we were going to lose him on September 3rd. That could be tomorrow. Not a single member in that House can say 'oh, he's going to make it," Hendrickson said.

The senate bill which would have legalized cannabis oil, which also would help alleviate Eli's seizures failed to pass the House.

Rep. Scott Munsterman (R-Brookings) said "they were clouded by the fact that there is a lot of baggage involved with the marijuana plant, because it has been used inappropriately in the past."

"This bill has a personal impact with people, this isn't a piece of legislation that is just passed and sits idly somewhere in a drawer, there's a definite impact, an immediate impact, and an immediate need," Hendrickson said.

"Unless or until a family is forced in a position where they have a loved one that's in a situation where you're trying to do everything you possible can for them, from a medical perspective, it's difficult for people to understand that," Munsterman said.

Rep. Munsterman supported the bill, but as the chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee, he heard many concerns from other legislators.

"One of the things I think that kept getting in the minds of legislators is that a vote for this would support "medical marijuana," which in fact this is a derivative that is pulled out of that plant and put together in a form that it could actually be very specific in how its used to treat a specific condition," Munsterman said.

"Some committee members had talked to the medical association, and some of their medical doctors that they're acquainted with, told them that they weren't going to prescribe it," Munsterman added.

"The scope of this bill was not a state game changer, but yet we heard people on the floor say that this was a road that South Dakota couldn't go down," Hendrickson said.

Some can't wait for the Food and Drug Administration to make the first move.

"Even though this drug has not been approved yet, or made it through the third phase of the FDA trial program, I felt it was important for us to run it parallel, to that," Munsterman said.

"They're banking on the fact that my son, and all these other children in the state are going to live for the next year to be able to get to this medicine," Hendrickson said.

Some may wonder if it's just better to move to another state, but that may be an expensive proposition to consider for a family.

"imagine packing a whole house, and upsetting all of his care with the doctors he's familiar with, the nurses he's familiar with, the physical therapists he's familiar with, then the expense on top of it, you spend every dime you have taking care of a child with these special needs," Hendrickson said.

"We really have to set aside some of the things that we have negatively associated with in this instance, marijuana, and how it can be used in a positive way," Munsterman said.