This is the next article in WorkersCompensation.com's “Comp and Cannabis” series, as Editor Dara Barney explores medical marijuana legislation state-by-state, and what it means regarding workers' compensation.
South Dakota might be best known for being a part of a pair, but the Mount Rushmore State has some interesting history, and upcoming legislative action, when it comes to marijuana. Dating back to 1977, “During a short-lived wave of decriminalization in the country, South Dakota decriminalized cannabis, but repealed that law ‘almost immediately’ afterward,” attorney Jesse Kelley, Legislative Counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) told WorkersCompensation.com.
Fast forward to 2017: “New Approach South Dakota came close to putting a measure on the 2016 ballot, falling shy due in part to a notary error. Now, the group is working to put medical marijuana on the 2018 ballot. New Approach submitted signatures to the Secretary of State on November 6, 2017 and will know if the signatures can be validated within four months. Initiative petitions must be filed in the office of the Secretary of State one year before the general election year,” Kelley said.
MPP works to legalize use of cannabis, and regulate it similar to alcohol. Education is a priority, and getting the right kind of help to problem users when issues arise.
New Approach South Dakota is an organization looking to legalize medical cannabis and recreational cannabis use (over 21 for rec users). Currently either type of use is illegal in the state, with large fines. A small amount could mean up to a year in jail, and/or thousands of dollars in fines.
With many legislative battles fought over the years with little success, “The South Dakota State Senate passed legislation removing cannabidiol from the definition of marijuana and making it a Schedule IV controlled substance and legal to use so long as any recommended CBD oil be approved by the Food and Drug Administration,” according to Kelley. Although FDA approval hasn’t hit marijuana in any form as a treatment, “…Relief for qualifying patients might arrive on the scene in South Dakota very soon since the FDA is scheduled to review Epidiolex, a nearly pure extract of cannabidiol, this summer.
But what does all of this mean for injured workers?
A Public Affairs representative for the Workforce Planning section of the South Dakota Dept. of Labor & Regulation said the department had nothing to provide for this article. The state’s Dept. of Health, and Governor’s office didn’t respond to requests for comment by press time.
“South Dakota has not seen issues surrounding workers' compensation or injured workers, but we are seeing some developments in other states,” Kelley said, including Colorado.
Although the state had seen legalization years ago, opponents have expressed worry about employer drug testing and potentially hazardous workplaces developing due to marijuana use. But, Kelley says, some employers have been able to create and edit their policies to cater to their workplace needs.
“Loss costs — the average cost of lost wages and medical expenses associated with on-the-job injuries — did not increase following the first year in which the initiative was fully implemented, then decreased in the second,” he said. “There has been no increase in the rate of lost-time workers’ compensation claims, according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, and the Department of Public Health and Environment reports there were fewer fatal occupational injuries in 2013 and 2014, the years following legalization, than in 2011, the year prior to legalization.”
Colorado isn’t South Dakota, Idaho, or Kansas, but the Centennial State could be the leader for what becomes state standards both in the workplace and outside of it in upcoming years.
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