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Noem wants year delay to implement medical marijuana

Gov. Noem is backing a plan that would use HB 1100, as a “vehicle bill” to implement medical marijuana. However, that would mean a year delay from what South Dakotans voted on in November.
(Credit: Getty Images/Patrick Morrissey)
Published: Feb. 10, 2021 at 8:13 AM MST
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PIERRE, S.D. - Gov. Kristi Noem’s office is asking for a one-year delay in the implementation of medical marijuana in South Dakota.

South Dakota voters overwhelming approved Initiated Measure 26 in November, which legalized the use of medical marijuana in the state; however, a joint statement released Wednesday by Noem and Republican legislative leaders said the state needs more time to make the law a reality.

“We are working diligently to get IM 26 implemented safely and correctly,” Noem said. “The feasibility of getting this program up and running well will take additional time. I am thankful to our legislative leaders for helping make sure that we do this right.”

House Speaker Spencer Gosch (R, Glenham) amended HB 1100 Wednesday morning to act as a vehicle for the plan’s passage. Effectively, the amended bill nullifies IM 26, and establishes the governor’s plan for medical marijuana implementation, and delays the date of medical marijuana implementation until July 1, 2022 - a full year later than stated in IM 26.

The bill would create an interim committee that would “research best practices from other medical marijuana programs.” The committee would have to present their findings to the full legislature by Jan. 15, 2022, near the beginning of next years session.

Noem said the state has consulted with “industry experts” in Cannabis Public Policy Consulting (CPPC) who say they have not seen a successful implementation of a medicinal marijuana program in only eight months, which is what is required by IM 26.

Leadership from both chambers say they intend to implement medical marijuana one way or another, given it was voted for by almost 70% of the electorate last November.

“Our Senate leadership fully supports the effort to properly implement a workable medical marijuana program,” said Senate Majority Leader Gary Cammack (R-Union Center). “We will honor the voters’ wishes.”

“There is no doubt that IM 26 passed in South Dakota, and it is fully our intention to honor the will of the voters,” said House Majority Leader Kent Peterson (R-Salem). “Based upon the experiences of other states, we know that it takes time to start implementing a safe and workable program. We will get the job done.”

However, other legislators feel as though this is an attempt by the state to drag their feet on the matter.

“It is the legislature’s duty to implement IM 26 as it was passed by the voters,” said State Sen. Troy Heinert (D-Mission). “Any attempt by the legislature on behalf of the governor to delay implementation is completely unacceptable. The governor should have called legislative leaders the day after the election to work on implementation instead of telling the voters ‘they got it wrong.’”

How has implementation gone in other states?

Other states have varied widely in how long it took them to implement medical marijuana laws. Montana issued patient ID cards just 41 days after voters approved medical marijuana in 2004, according to the Marijuana Policy Project. On the other end of the spectrum, West Virginia passed a medical cannabis law in 2017, and still has not issued any business licenses.

In Minnesota, the first dispensary opened 13 months after Gov. Mark Dayton signed a medical cannabis bill into law. North Dakota opened its first dispensary about two-and-a-half-years after voters approved a medical marijuana initiative in 2016.

Overall, states have generally averaged between one and three years from the passage of medical marijuana laws until medical cannabis actually becomes available. If South Dakota fully implements medical marijuana by the initial target date of July 1, 2021, it would be among the fastest states to do so.

Previous opposition to marijuana

Noem has long been an opponent of marijuana and has previously spoken out against both IM 26 and Amendment A, a separate voter-approved measure that legalized recreational marijuana in the state; however, the governor did not appear to offer direct opposition to medical marijuana in Wednesday’s statement. Instead, she seemed focused on the timeline.

The future of recreational marijuana in South Dakota is still very much in question, though. A Hughes County judge recently struck down Amendment A, and its fate will likely ultimately be decided in the state Supreme Court.