Though medical marijuana has officially been legal in South Dakota since July 1, 2021, access through the state program may be a challenge. As of March 29, 2022, the Department of Health (DOH) reports that only 90 South Dakota doctors have been approved to recommend medical marijuana to their patients.
According to state rules, a physician is needed to begin the process of a medical card application. A prospective patient must schedule an appointment with a physician who is licensed to recommend medication. According to state law, you will need an in-person visit with a physician with whom you have a ‘bona fide practitioner-patient relationship.’ Once you have met with your physician, the practitioner will make the decision on whether you would benefit from medical cannabis. If the physician decides to move forward, they will need to create an account with the DOH, which must be approved before the application can progress. If the doctor’s account is approved, an email will be sent to the patient to create an account of their own.
As of March 29, there are 306 approved patient card applications, 21 pending applications and zero have been denied, according to DOH data. Along with the 90 approved physician accounts, there are currently 3 pending and 45 have been denied. DOH content developer and web strategist Jennifer Baker noted that denied applications for physician accounts are typically patients inadvertently applying through the physician portal.
The 90 approved physicians represent just 4.07% of the state’s 2,214 total active physicians, according to the 2021 South Dakota Physician Workforce Profile. With fewer than 100 practitioners who are currently able to guide patients through the application process, it may be difficult for a patient to find a physician willing and able to help. With a total population estimate of 895,376, this would mean that there is currently only one doctor to recommend medical cannabis for every 9,948.6 South Dakotans.
Beyond patient/practitioner data, the DOH also provided the numbers of approved applications for different types of cannabis establishments. Dispensary applications lead the pack with 126 approved applications, followed by cultivation-only facilities in a distant second place with 16 approved. At the bottom of the list are manufacturing and testing facilities, each of which currently have only one approved application.