PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — It looks like the nearly 70% of South Dakota voters who marked yes on Initiated Measure 26 to legalize medical marijuana back in November will have to wait at least another year.
That’s because the Legislature’s Republican leaders have a nine-page amendment pending that would push all the 2021 dates back 12 months into 2022.
Those top Republicans and Republican Governor Kristi Noem, who opposes marijuana, want time so a proposed 22-person panel can start analyzing what IM 26 doesn’t adequately address.
Their plan, offered Wednesday in the House State Affairs Committee on HB 1100, would take effect June 30. The panel’s deadline for recommendations to the Legislature would be January 15.
Lawmakers then would use the 2022 legislative session for patching holes.
Senate Democrat leader Troy Heinert said Thursday there’s a simpler solution: “Well, I think what we should do is respect the will of the voters, plain and simple.”
But House Republican leader Kent Peterson repeated a promise. “First and foremost, this will get implemented, this will get implemented in South Dakota, and there’s no doubt in my mind it will be done, and it will be done right,” he told Capitol reporters.
“What we’ve seen in the past from other states that have gone through this is it takes time. It takes anywhere, from the consultants that have been brought on, between 14 months up to four years to stand up a program like this,” he continued.
IM 26 calls for the state Department of Health to set up most of the program, according to Peterson. “Well, we’ve been in the middle of a global pandemic since last March and that’s something that has to be considered,” he said.
Senate Republican leader Gary Cammack sat next to Peterson and took the same line. “It looks fairly black and white when you read IM 26, but it’s silent on a lot of issues that are really important,” Cammack said. “It seems like every time we ask a question, it just opens up another hundred questions behind it.”
Peterson said there’s “a myriad of things” that need to be looked into. “It’s going to take a lot of different people from a lot of different areas, whether they’re on the committee or not, to be advising and giving their ideas as to what they think should be done.”
Asked whether South Dakota would have a medical marijuana law on July 1, 2022, Peterson answered, “I’m very confident in that.” Cammack nodded: “I would agree.”
The amendment came from House Republican assistant leader Chris Johnson. The committee needs to decide Wednesday whether to go forward with it. Among the topics it says IM 26 doesn’t cover are:
— Tracking marijuana and marijuana products.
— Taxing medical marijuana.
— Regulating the form of products, maximum potency, or appropriate dosage of products for safe human consumption.
— Identifying the debilitating medical conditions that qualify for lawful use and possession of medical marijuana and.
— Permitting, mandating, or prohibiting ownership with different tiers of the marijuana supply chain.
It also points out IM 26 assigns regulation to state health officials but Constitutional Amendment A, which voters also passed in November, gives exclusive regulatory power over marijuana to the state Department of Revenue. A circuit judge ruled earlier in the week that Amendment A violated the state constitution in several respects and was invalid; its sponsor is preparing an appeal to the South Dakota Supreme Court.
The Republican leaders’ plan also states that a medical marijuana program would be “significantly impacted” by the final outcome of the Amendment A litigation and “establishing a medical marijuana program without certainty as to the legality of adult-use marijuana would waste limited taxpayers’ resources.”
It also notes that IM 26 doesn’t provide for a source of funding for creation of a new state program before the work to implement the measure may occur and that IM 26 conflicts with federal law that considers marijuana illegal.
The governor told reporters Thursday that state government has contracted with Cannabis Public Policy Consulting.
“Everyone involved in the process is determined to fulfill the will of the voters in this arena,” Noem said. “We just want to make sure we’ve addressed the health aspects, the public safety, the implementation, the revenue, and make sure that we’re doing that correctly going forward.”
The study panel would have:
Five representatives appointed by the House speaker, Spencer Gosch
Five senators appointed by the Senate president pro tem, Lee Schoenbeck
A state’s attorney from a county and an attorney from the state Office of Attorney General, appointed by Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg
The governor would appoint three people from the Health, Revenue and Public Safety departments; a representative of law enforcement; a health care practitioner with knowledge of medical marijuana issues; a nurse; two representatives from medical marijuana cultivators or manufacturers or retail industry; a patient with a debilitating condition who intends to use medical marijuana; and one representative of local government.
The Legislative Research Council would staff the panel, which would run like an interim legislative committee and be under the supervision of the Legislature’s Executive Board.
Noem, asked by a reporter about what could be done in the meantime for patients who would use medical marijuana, said “that’s a conversation that could be had” but she wants the program done right. “Getting them the help they need as soon as possible but also making sure that it’s well-regulated, well-run and is done correctly,” she said.
Noem told another reporter her view on the broader subject hadn’t changed in the four months since she campaigned against both Amendment A and IM 26. She’s also not interested in backing another bill, HB 1225 sponsored by Representative Mike Derby and Senator Brock Greenfield, that would legalize adult-use marijuana under Amendment A.
“Well, I’m still not in favor of legalizing marijuana,” Noem said. “I still believe that it is a bad idea for our state, and that is certainly a prerogative these legislators can pursue, in putting a bill through the Legislature.
“I would not be inclined to sign one.”