PTSD might qualify for medical marijuana in South Dakota

The South Dakota Legislature is debating adding Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to the list of...
The South Dakota Legislature is debating adding Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to the list of conditions approved for medical marijuana.(MGN Online)
Published: Feb. 28, 2023 at 1:21 PM MST
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PIERRE, S.D. (SDBA) – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder would be added to the list of ailments medical providers could prescribe medical marijuana.

The House Health and Human Services Committee Tuesday passed Senate Bill 1 on an 8 to 5 vote after about an hour and a half of testimony and discussion.

The bill also removes the state Department of Health from decision-making for which disorders medical cannabis can be used. If passed, the measure would allow the legislature to add or subtract diagnoses from medical marijuana usage.

Most of the discussion centered on PTSD.

Two veterans who served tours in recent wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan said using medical marijuana saved their lives and allowed them to pursue counseling.

“I spent five years looking at anti-depressants,” Clint Wood, an Air Force veteran from Vermillion, said. “They are difficult to get off. The day I folded cannabis with therapy, I began making strides I couldn’t believe.”

Wood is now a patent agent.

Becky Letsche, a former combat medic in Afghanistan from Madison, said using medical marijuana for her PTSD turned her life around.

“I’m not using it for fun,” Letsche said. “I’m using it for PTSD. It allowed me to rest and not have nightmares. Medical marijuana helped save my life.”

Some opponents said medical marijuana simply masks the pain of PTSD and doesn’t address the underlying causes. Others thought it was bad public policy and unsupported by science.

“This is a reckless disregard to medical and scientific studies and public safety,” said David Omdahl, a former state senator and engineer from Sioux Falls. “This bill passed the Senate on feelings, not facts.”

Republican Rep. Fred Deutsch from Florence says the interim marijuana study group that proposed SB 1 did not look at the science enough to consider cannabis as a treatment for PTSD.

Secretary of Health Melissa Magstadt, also a nurse practitioner, disagreed.

“We’ve looked at research in other states and from stakeholders,” she said. “We heard over and over from people that this (medical marijuana) addresses symptoms and is not necessarily a cure.”

Magstadt also said it will take some time to get the state’s initiated medical marijuana law to where lawmakers, the governor, patients, and medical providers want it to be.

“It’s a process,” she said.

The bill now goes to the House for final consideration.