Lawmakers vote in favor of adding symptoms, including PTSD, to South Dakota's medical cannabis program

“We’re talking about a good night’s sleep, for heaven’s sake,” one proponent of the bill said, pre-empting arguments that the medical efficacy of cannabis remains unclear.

Rep. Fred Deutsch, a Republican from Florence, urges his fellow representatives to vote against a bill adding several conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder, to the state's medicinal cannabis statutes, during debate on March 6, 2023.
Jason Harward / Forum News Service

PIERRE, S.D. — South Dakotans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, many of them veterans, could soon have better access to medicinal cannabis, as House lawmakers voted 36-32 on March 6 in favor of a bill adding several “debilitating medical conditions” to the state’s medicinal cannabis statutes.

An amendment offered in a House committee last week struck glaucoma from the list of conditions included in the Senate-approved version of Senate Bill 1, meaning the legislation will require agreement in the Senate — which proponents say is likely — before it makes its way over to the desk of Gov. Kristi Noem.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem

South Dakota is one of two states with full medical marijuana programs that do not allow prescriptions for post-traumatic stress disorder or aligned symptoms.

Rep. Ernie Otten, of Tea, the vice chair of the Medical Marijuana Oversight Committee this past interim session, the task force that generated this bill, spoke emphatically in favor of adding post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of conditions, mainly due to the potential for cannabis to aid in relaxation without some of the side effects of opiates and heavy alcohol use.

“We’re talking about a good night’s sleep, for heaven’s sake,” Otten said.


But Rep. Fred Deutsch, of Florence, an opponent of expanding the conditions covered by the medical marijuana program in the state, disagreed with the framing of the addition as harmless, pointing to studies from several different countries showing that the use of cannabis in populations with post-traumatic stress disorder can increase the rate of suicide.

“It's compassionate to vote on the evidence,” Deutsch said. “To do otherwise is not.”

Another member of the Medical Marijuana Oversight Committee, Rep. Taylor Rehfeldt, of Sioux Falls, disputed Deutsch’s referenced studies.

“The difficult part with marijuana is it’s illegal federally,” Rehfeldt said. ‘So you're not going to see the same rigor in scientific studies that you would see with other medications that are approved by the FDA.”

Under current law, providers are only offered a symptomatic framework in their prescription of medicinal marijuana, including determinations such as “severe, debilitating pain” and “severe nausea,” among others.

While Senate Bill 1 keeps these considerations in place, it also adds seven specific conditions including cancer, Crohn’s disease and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The proposal also changes the process for adding conditions, putting it under the purview of lawmakers rather than the Department of Health.

In committee testimony near the beginning of the legislative session, Sen. Erin Tobin, a prime sponsor of the change, explained that the complex process facing petitioners who attempted to add a condition made it infeasible to make the law as dynamic as it had been intended.


“At least through the legislature, we can have those people who are prescribing come and give proponent and opponent testimony,” Tobin said during the Jan. 18 committee hearing.

As during debate on the Senate floor, the House discussion over the addition of conditions covered by medical cannabis programs in dozens of other states partially turned into a referendum on South Dakota’s medical cannabis program.

Rep. Kevin Jensen, of Canton, expressed concern that adding post-traumatic stress disorder would increase the ability of “pop-up clinics” to make undue prescriptions for those simply looking to access cannabis.

Rehfeldt downplayed these concerns, especially since a law curtailing the advertising potential of these clinics is set to become law.

“Nothing in the law says that [providers] absolutely have to give a patient a medical marijuana card. They can choose not to,” Rehfeldt said. “If they decide that they would like to give somebody a certification for marijuana, they can give a deadline. They can say two months and direct patients to a counselor and then, if they don’t go, providers don’t have to renew.”

“I still believe the people of the state deserve a permanent tax cut,” Noem said. “So we're evaluating that. It's really hard to put my signature on a bill that doesn't bring that kind of relief.”

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

Jason Harward covers South Dakota news for Forum News Service. Email him at
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