Saturday, December 4, 2021

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Proposed legislation fails to acknowledge different uses of marijuana

Rep. Hugh Bartels, a Watertown Republican and chairman of the Adult-Use Marijuana study committee, drafted legislation which is considered a compromise in legalizing cannabis for adult use. Yet, it could replace the new medical marijuana law in South Dakota that took effect in July.

Bartels’ bill would legalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana flower and up to 22 grams of marijuana concentrate (e.g. waxes, oils and edibles) for recreational use by anyone 21 years of age or older. His proposal appoints the Department of Revenue the primary regulatory agency over commercial cannabis ventures in South Dakota like cultivation facilities and retail dispensaries, and it would prohibit personal grow operations.

According to the Argus Leader, Bartels contends that legalizing recreational marijuana diminishes the need for a medical program. However, those under the age of 21 who have a medical need for marijuana can still receive a medical card issued by the Department of Health according to his plan.

This proposed bill will ban private, in-home growing of marijuana despite the fact that voters approved several ballot measures that allowed for private, in-home cultivation of marijuana last year.

In the meantime, South Dakota for Better Marijuana Laws is in the process of gathering signatures to force a recreational marijuana measure back on the 2022 ballot. 

Again, voters will have the final say on recreational use and personal cultivation of marijuana.

This question is…when are elected officials going to stop conflating recreational use of marijuana and medical marijuana considering that they each have different properties and cultivation techniques? 

Marijuana cultivated for recreational use has Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which produces psychoactive results. However, medical marijuana has more Cannabidiol (CBD) which produces the feelings of relaxation and calm. A patient cannot simply switch from their prescription of medical marijuana and begin using marijuana that was cultivated for recreational use.

In 2017, a large review from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine assessed more than 10,000 scientific studies on the medical benefits and adverse effects of marijuana. Due to the limited but on-going research, a patient who is receiving medical marijuana to alleviate symptoms associated with a physical or mental health condition has to be monitored by a qualified licensed medical provider.

Patients forced to self-medicate by using recreational marijuana purchased outside of a medically-regulated environment are putting their health at risk. Unlike medical marijuana, there is no guarantee that recreational cultivation is done in a controlled and monitored environment without the use of pesticides according to studies that have documented the processing of marijuana for various purposes. 

Two separate products with each having its own properties and methods of cultivation require separate debates and separate legislation. 

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