Eligible patients in South Dakota can officially file applications to receive a medical cannabis card under a new law that has had a clumsy rollout.
A notice posted Monday on a state government website dedicated to the new medical cannabis program said that physicians “can now access the medical cannabis patient portal and begin certifying medical cannabis patients.”
“Once certified by a physician, patients will then be able to access the online application process and complete their applications,” the notice said. “Approved applicants will have a medical cannabis patient card mailed to them.”
The announcement comes two weeks after a legislative rules committee approved revised rules that had been issued by the Department of Health last month.
Monday’s notice from the department ends months of uncertainty and disputes surrounding the new medical marijuana law, which was approved overwhelmingly by South Dakota voters at the ballot in last year’s election.
The law took effect on July 1, but no dispensaries were open on that date save for one that opened a Native American reservation in the state.
State government officials looked warily at the cards issued by the tribal-run dispensary; South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said at the time that the state’s highway patrol would not recognize tribal-issued cards to individuals who are not members of the tribe.
Outside of that dispensary, medical marijuana sales are not expected to kick off in South Dakota until 2022.
For much of this year, Noem, widely regarded as a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2024, appeared in public service announcements that aired in the state in which she discussed the new medical marijuana law.
“One of my jobs as governor is to make sure the will of the people and all constitutional laws are enforced. The medical cannabis program is on schedule, and we’re working to implement a responsible program that follows the direction given by the voters,” Noem said in one of the ads.
But the ads drew controversy last month when it was revealed that they were paid for with taxpayer money to the tune of more than $300,000.
The ads didn’t sit right with some critics, who noted that Noem was against the medical marijuana proposal throughout the 2020 campaign, and that the PSAs offered little in the way of useful information.
South Dakota voters also approved a ballot proposal to legalize recreational marijuana use for adults, but that law has also faced impediments put up by Noem. The ballot proposal, a change to the constitution known as Amendment A, was struck down by a South Dakota judge in February after a pair of state law enforcement officials challenged it on behalf of Noem.
The judge ruled against the amendment, saying it “has far-reaching effects on the basic nature of South Dakota’s governmental system.”
Noem celebrated the ruling.
“Today’s decision protects and safeguards our constitution,” Noem said in a statement at the time. “I’m confident that South Dakota Supreme Court, if asked to weigh in as well, will come to the same conclusion.”
The state Supreme Court is still deliberating over the matter, but in the meantime, a legislative panel has moved ahead with a recommendation for lawmakers to pursue a bill that would legalize recreational pot with a 15 percent tax rate on sales.
The special committee had been studying the matter for six months since last spring before it produced its formal recommendation late last month.