South Dakota voters made a lot of decisions on Election Day, including to legalize marijuana. This goes into effect next July. If you don’t agree with marijuana legalization, you might find some common ground with someone of the opposite opinion in that however you look at it, it’s a big change.
“Unquestionably a seismic shift in policy for all sorts of groups across the state,” South Dakota state Representative-elect Will Mortenson (R) said. “I mean, the easy one to think of is law enforcement, and how are we going to do DUIs and that kind of thing. But this touches on health care providers, local governments who are going to be asked to implement parts of this, tax collectors who are implementing parts of this.”
“We expect some organizations, some entities that will be up and ready to open dispensaries, particularly Indian tribes in South Dakota which have expressed real interest in getting into the industry,” Sioux Falls lawyer and former U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson said. “Now what we don’t know is how soon the Department of Revenue and South Dakota state government will approve the licensing and the regulations required off of the reservation in order to open up dispensaries.”
Johnson was the sponsor of Constitutional Amendment A, which legalizes marijuana.
“My advice to folks interested in opening a dispensary has been, right now, just wait,” Johnson said. “Wait and see with Pierre, I don’t know whether they’re going to somehow try to challenge the will of the voters. But even if they don’t, we need to see what sort of regulations and licensing requirements are put in place by the state.”
“Groups and the public have already been reaching out to me, and I’m a brand-new legislator,” Mortenson said. “And their questions are how it’s going to work, and some of them are positive and some of them are negative, but they’re all very curious on these questions.”
But don’t just keep an eye on Pierre.
“Folks need to look to see what cities like Sioux Falls is going to decide to do,” Johnson said. “Whether they’re going to block dispensaries here or whether they’re going to allow them.”
On the question of where, Johnson believes the answer will be somewhere.
“We will have, again, reservations like the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe down the road from Sioux Falls, which I expect will be open for business regardless of what local communities decide to do,” Johnson said. “So I feel confident we will see dispensaries as soon as this summer… in South Dakota. Whether or not we’ll see them in Sioux Falls, I don’t know the answer to that.”
Now, the state and its voters will see what the legislature representing them might do.
“I think there’s going to be some work ahead of us to honor the intent of the voters, I mean it’s our job to listen to them but it’s also our job to listen to South Dakotans and the affected stakeholder groups to make sure this gets implemented in a way that keeps our state safe and, again, retains fidelity to the will of the voters,” Mortenson said.
The South Dakota legislative session begins on Tuesday, January 12.