PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The recent medical-cannabis ads featuring Governor Kristi Noem aired at taxpayer expense.

They resulted from two additions to a South Dakota Department of Health one-year contract that began June 1 and originally was for a marketing campaign to prevent abuse and misuse of opioids.

The original contract, with Imagine Agency of Rapid City, for the opioids work was for $375,000. The funding for the opioids work came from a federal grant.

The first amendment covering medical cannabis came July 20, 2021, taking the total contract to $555,000. The second amendment, also for medical cannabis, was dated September 23, 2021. It took the total contract to $697,500.

The additional amounts for medical cannabis totaled $322,500 and came from state general funds.

The governor’s one-minute advertisement, done in the style of a public-service announcement, aired from June through September, a Department of Health spokesman said.

Daniel Bucheli told KELOLAND News the medical-cannabis work also included social media posts and tracking in the same period.

He said the source of funding for the medical-cannabis ads was Senate Bill 35 that the Legislature approved last winter.

The enrolled version of the legislation appropriated a lump sum of $4,161,502 for implementing the provisions of Constitutional Amendment A, which legalized marijuana for people age 21 and older, and for Initiated Measure 26, which legalized medical-cannabis use, but didn’t provide any specifics.

Noem last fall opposed both the proposed medical-cannabis laws and Constitutional Amendment A. Voters approved medical cannabis 70-30% and Amendment A 54-46%.

After the November vote, Noem challenged the validity of Amendment A. She won agreement from state Circuit Judge Christina Klinger, whom Noem appointed to the bench in 2019. Amendment A remains on hold while the South Dakota Supreme Court considers the appeal.

You can still see the Noem ad on the department’s medical-cannabis program website.

“One of my jobs as governor is to make sure that the will of the people and all constitutional laws are enforced,” she says in the ad. “The medical cannabis program is on schedule. And we’re working to implement a responsible program that follows the direction given by the voters.”

The department must begin to issue medical-cannabis cards no later than November 18.