Bills regulating medical marijuana ‘pop-up’ clinics pass House committee

Two bills regulating medical marijuana “pop-up clinics” passed the House Health and Human Services committee Tuesday morning at the Capitol in Pierre.

The bills, one that would regulate pop-up clinic locations and another that would regulate advertisements and restrict telehealth meetings to obtain a medical marijuana card, passed through the committee 10-2 and 9-4, respectively. Both bills are sponsored by Fred Deutsch, R-Florence.

The issue of the clinics popped up at the Legislature’s Medical Marijuana Oversight Committee last year. Pop-up clinics have appeared in several businesses across the state, including the Hampton Inn in Watertown, the St. Charles Lounge in Pierre and even a strip club, Deutsch said.

“I don’t see my doctor in a strip club,” Deutsch said. “I don’t know if any of you do, but I don’t. And I don’t think any South Dakotan should.”

Chris Qualm, of the Department of Health, told the committee last October that hundreds of patient applications come in over the course of a few days whenever a pop-up clinic takes place. The department said that’s how it typically finds out a pop-up clinic happened.

The bill would limit the medical marijuana assessment of a patient to be in a “licensed health care facility,” such as clinics and hospitals, Deutsch said. Proponents include lobbyists from the South Dakota police chiefs and sheriffs associations, as well as Protecting South Dakota Kids, a political action committee that successfully opposed the legalization of recreational marijuana in the November general election.

However, opponents argue the bill is “arbitrary,” citing examples of mobile dentists, clinics and other medical evaluations used across the state that aren’t limited to brick and mortar clinics. Opponents included lobbyists from various marijuana industry associations.

Opponents also said the bill would push more people to turn to the black market for products and reduce the number of facilities where practitioners could practice, which would raise the cost for patients and make it more difficult for patients to find medical care.

Kittrick Jeffries, lobbyist for Dakota Cannabis Consulting, told legislators that many physicians in South Dakota at larger health care systems don’t prescribe medical marijuana to patients because of an “insurance issue” since the drug isn’t federally legal.

Opponents also said HB 1154 is an alternative bill that would address Deutsch’s concerns without “unintended consequences.” In regards to pop-up clinic locations, the bill would ban medical assessments in spaces licensed for alcohol sales. The bill has not yet had a hearing.

Deutsch said HB 1154 would not address the problems with pop-up clinics.

“There’s not a better bill coming,” Deutsch said. “I’ve studied their bill. It’s not better. It’s much worse.”

The second bill to pass the committee was HB 1129, which would ban advertisements for medical marijuana that would guarantee a card, offer telehealth appointments or offer financial incentives to make an appointment.

Based on the bill, any practitioner or business that distributes such advertisements would be prohibited from certifying medical marijuana cards for up to six months and would have to remove the advertisement.

A lobbyist for the South Dakota Cannabis Industry Association, Jeremiah Murphy, said the bill was a duplicate of language already in statute.

The bills will now head to the House floor.

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