South Dakota Takes Step Toward Approving Medical Marijuana Rules

South Dakota just took a step towards approving medical cannabis rules, a major deal for the very legally stalled state.
South Dakota
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The legislative panel responsible for approving the rules that will govern South Dakota’s new medical marijuana law has approved a number of proposed regulations and sent other proposals back for review, in what was a crucial administrative step toward implementing the new statewide program.

The Legislature’s Rules Review Committee on Monday gave “the green light to most of the 124 pages of proposed regulations for medical cannabis in South Dakota from the state Department of Health,” local television station KELO reported.

But the committee rejected other proposed regulations. According to the Associated Press, the lawmakers on the panel rejected one proposal “that would have limited the amount of high-potency marijuana that patients could possess, required medical practitioners to write a recommendation for patients who wanted to grow more than three cannabis plants and defined a list of conditions that would qualify for a medical marijuana recommendation.”

All told, the committee sent “a half-dozen of the proposals” back to the Department of Health for review, according to KELO.

Other rules approved by the committee included one that “set a $75 application fee for medical marijuana cards and discount the fee to $20 for low-income applicants,” according to the AP, and another that set “a state licensing fee of $5,000 for any medical marijuana facility.”

The Associated Press noted that a “host of lobbyists, representing both medical groups and the cannabis industry, objected to some rules, though nearly all praised the Department of Health’s rule-making process.” The Department of Health was also saluted by South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem.

“I commend the Department of Health for its hard work to streamline the process,” she said in a statement, as quoted by the Associated Press. “South Dakota will continue to implement the best, most patient-focused medical cannabis program in the country.”

South Dakota

South Dakota Compromises

Still, not everyone was as enthused by the slate of proposals. Troy Heinert, the Democratic leader of the South Dakota state senate, represented the lone vote on the committee against the proposed regulations.

“As I talk to people across the state they wanted it legalized, taxed and done. I think we’ve made it more difficult than we had to,” Heinert said, as quoted by KELO. “From our side of the aisle, we’re all about freedom.”

Indeed, many of the state’s leaders have been clearly reluctant to embrace the new medical marijuana law, despite 70 percent of South Dakota voters approving the measure that legalized the treatment in last year’s election.

The law officially took effect on July 1, but so far, the only dispensary that has opened its doors to customers is one on an Native American reservation located on the eastern edge of the state. 

Noem, a possible Republican presidential contender, has said that highway patrol officers in the state won’t honor tribal-issued medical cannabis cards if they are issued to non-tribal members.

She has also appeared in PSAs throughout the summer explaining how the state intends to implement the 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 says in the ad. 

The state has said that sales will likely begin next summer. Meanwhile, communities throughout South Dakota are hashing out their own local ordinances governing medical cannabis dispensaries. Last week, members of the city council in Sioux Falls, the largest city in South Dakota, approved a slate of proposals, including one that will place a cap on the number of dispensaries at five.

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