PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota’s medical marijuana oversight committee will have a lot of new faces this year when the panel returns to work, after state lawmakers decided in the 2023 session that it needed a somewhat different look.
There’s now a clear preference among a majority of the Legislature’s Executive Board that the group stay in the middle, rather than veering too far toward tougher restrictions or broader availability. There’s also greater recognition that public schools have an interest, too, because students younger than 18 can receive medical-cannabis cards if they qualify.
That center-oriented approach came across last week in the board’s appointments. There will still be 11 seats, but only two of the past members — Republican Sen. Erin Tobin, who chaired the initial group, and patient Elizabeth Tiger of Spearfish — will be back.
Joining them on the 2023 version of the panel are Republican Rep. Roger DeGroot, Republican Rep. Curt Massie, Republican Sen. Jim Mehlhaff, Pennington County Sheriff Brian Mueller, Sioux Falls Police Chief Jon Thum, physician Francine Arnold of Sioux Falls, physician’s assistant Katie Kassin of Vermillion, certified nurse practitioner Rachel Waddell of Rapid City, and counselor Kristi Palmer of Rapid City.
Nearly 70% of South Dakota voters in 2020 said medical marijuana should be legalized. Where a majority of South Dakota voters fall on legalizing recreational marijuana isn’t as clear.
In that same 2020 general election, South Dakota voters approved a constitutional amendment that would have let people 21 and older use recreational marijuana 225,260-190,477; but the state’s Supreme Court. in a split decision, set it aside more than a year later. A second ballot attempt to legalize recreational marijuana in 2022 failed 163,584-183,879.
Whether there will be a third try in 2024 isn’t yet known. Matthew Schweich, who led the 2022 attempt, has submitted possible language to the South Dakota Secretary of State and the Legislative Research Council for review.
House Republican leader Will Mortenson meanwhile brought a slate of names for the Executive Board’s consideration Friday. About the appointments, he said, “These are not luxurious. They are not glamorous. They don’t really pay.”
The two Democrats on the Executive Board, Senator Reynold Nesiba and House minority leader Oren Lesmeister, attempted to have Melissa Mentele of Emery stay on the panel as a patient advocate, rather than Tiger. Mentele led the drive to get the medical-marijuana measure on the 2020 ballot. But the board’s 12 Republicans said no.
Some of the board’s Republicans tried to have various other names substituted. They too lost. The final vote was 11-3.
The committee by law must meet twice per year. The 2023 version of the committee won’t start before July 1, when most new laws take effect in South Dakota. Last year the group met July 14 and October 25.
Beyond rewriting the committee’s membership requirement, one of the 2023 laws added to the panel’s scope: “The oversight committee shall ensure that it seeks relevant input from qualifying patients; designated caregivers; pharmacists; school boards and administrators; parents; municipal representatives; state agencies, including the Department of Health, the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, and the Department of Public Safety; and medical cannabis establishments.”
Another change that lawmakers passed this year gives the committee responsibility to evaluate and make recommendations about any medical and clinical aspects of the medical cannabis program.
Note: This story has been updated.