SD: Advocates Aim To Bring Marijuana Measure To Pierre

Photo Credit: Briana Sanchez

Advocates of medical marijuana say they’ll aim to allow access to a marijuana derivative this year in Pierre.

New Approach South Dakota brought a bill to the Legislature that would legalize the possession and use of cannabidiol (CBD) oil, a derivative of marijuana.

The bill, Eliyah’s bill, is named for George Hendrickson’s son, who uses CBD to treat symptoms of Dravet Syndrome, which causes multiple seizures each day.

“What CBD has done for my son is as close as a miracle,” said Hendrickson, who is running for the U.S. House of Representatives as an independent.

Advocates and supporters of marijuana legalization in South Dakota gathered at the downtown library last weekend to discuss marijuana legalization in the state and across the nation.

Melissa Mentele, executive director of New Approach South Dakota, hopes to gain sponsors of the bill in Pierre. The organization also gathered signatures to add a medical marijuana measure to this year’s ballot.

Opponents of legalization argue that the Food and Drug Administration must approve the drug first as a controlled substance before it’s used medically.

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley wrote to the FDA and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration asking to expedite the process. Jackley helped put together a law with the South Dakota Legislature that allows for the use of medical marijuana if it’s FDA approved, prescribed by a South Dakota physician and dispensed by a South Dakota pharmacy.

“I think everybody hopes that a derivative of marijuana can help a child with a seizure or an adult alleviate pain, but science and research need to reach that level,” Jackley said. “Passing a recreational marijuana bill disguised as a medical bill is not the right or safest bill.”

Mentele said South Dakotan families can’t wait for FDA approval.

“California has been legal for over 20 years and it’s still not FDA approved,” Mentele said. “There’s no reason to make people wait.”

Mentele is an advocate of medicinal uses of cannabis because she’s seen its effects firsthand. She’s allergic to opiates, so when she blew her shoulder out in an accident she resorted to lotion with cannabis in the product for pain management.

“Patients always have to come before profits,” Mentele said. “These kids, like Eliyah, we’ve watched grow up and see them have to travel out of the state for treatment. We need this here. Medical needs to come first.”

The main speaker at last weekend’s event was Angela Elsner-Brown with her son Trey Brown, who uses medical marijuana to treat a brain injury he received when he was hit with a baseball bat in the head in 2011.

Elsner-Brown, known as “Minnesota’s marijuana mom,” fought Minnesota on a charge of child endangerment in 2014 because she gave her son cannabis oil to treat his injury.

“I got two gross misdemeanors for trying to save my son’s life,” she said.

Elsner-Brown advocates for the legalization of medicinal and recreational use of cannabis. She recounted her story at the event of how she fought her charges and why her son had to use medical marijuana. The drug helped decrease symptoms from his injury, including depression.

“What cannabis has done is given me my son back,” Elsner-Brown said.