South Dakota to Postpone Implementation of Voter-Approved Medical Cannabis Measure

Gov. Kristi Noem says eight months is not enough time to successfully enact the measure to ensure it best benefits the people of South Dakota; an additional year is needed.

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February 12, 2021

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South Dakota may have been the first state to pass both medical and adult-use cannabis on the same ballot in November 2020, but Gov. Kristi Noem is not in a hurry to implement either.

Initiated Measure 26, the medical cannabis program ballot measure, passed with 69.9% in favor. Based on South Dakota law, constitutional amendments and initiated measures become effective on July 1 each year following an election.

However, Noem said she and leadership in both chambers of the South Dakota state legislature plan to delay implementing a medical cannabis program an additional year, to July 1, 2022, she announced in a press release Feb. 10.

“We are working diligently to get IM 26 implemented safely and correctly,” Noem said in the release. “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.” 

That announcement came two days after Circuit Judge Christina Klinger struck down the voter-approved adult-use Amendment A, concluding that it violated South Dakota’s requirement that constitutional amendments be limited to one subject, she said in her ruling. That ruling was sparked after Noem instructed state law enforcement personnel to file litigation against Amendment A.

When it comes to tackling both medical and adult-use cannabis legislation, Noem said she and leadership in the state legislature are geared toward implemented a medical program first, rather than working on both at the same time. That decision came after turning to industry experts Cannabis Public Policy Consulting (CPPC), according to Noem’s release.

The notion from CPPC is that no state in the country has ever implemented both medical and adult-use programs simultaneously; and the successful implementation of a medical program takes more than just eight months—the timeframe IM 26 currently requires.

In a letter sent to the South Dakota Department of Revenue, CPPC consultants said, “Based on our experience with over 15 governments, the fastest timeline to create an effective, sustainable and functioning medical marijuana system, without any existing licensing system, while balancing the need for patient access to safe marijuana with the need for public safety, preventing underage use and divergence into the illicit market, is between 14 to 20 months.”

In a follow-up press release Noem’s office issued Feb. 12, she reiterated her position that the role of the state government is to ensure major policy changes are implemented and regulated in a manner that best benefits South Dakotans, putting safety and effectiveness at the forefront.

In addition to creating a flexible timeline to implement a medical cannabis program, the governor’s plan—in coordination with state legislature leadership—also sets up an interim committee to meet between now and the next legislative session to address the wide-ranging questions that they still have and the diverse policy decisions that should be open for public comment, according to the latter release.

Some of those questions include: Should cities or the state have oversight over licensed establishments, and to what extent? What testing is needed to ensure that products are safe for human consumption, and who is charged with testing? Should cannabis be allowed to be grown at home, as is permitted under IM 26? What will the taxation system look like? And what will the system look like for students taking medicinal marijuana in school?

In the former release, Senate Majority Leader Gary Cammack and House Majority Leader Kent Peterson, both republicans, said they support the people’s will in passing medical cannabis legislation.

“Our Senate leadership fully supports the effort to properly implement a workable medical marijuana program,” Cammack said. “We will honor the voters’ wishes.”

Peterson said, “There is no doubt that IM 26 passed in South Dakota, and it is fully our intention to honor the will of the voters. 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.”

South Dakota H.B. 1100, Establish Criteria Regarding Marijuana, sponsored by Rep. Spencer Gosch, was amended Feb. 10 to be the vehicle for the plan’s passage