Lawmakers recommend significant changes to South Dakota’s medical-cannabis laws

South Dakota Marijuana

Photo courtesy: South Dakota News Watch

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Less than a year after 70% of South Dakota voters said yes to Initiated Measure 26, and just weeks before a November 18 deadline to start issuing cards to patients and care-givers, a panel of state lawmakers spent Wednesday debating ways to potentially change key parts of the new medical-cannabis program.

The recommendations from the Legislature’s Marijuana Study Committee were across the board. One calls for allowing a maximum of three home-grown marijuana plants — IM 26 set three as the minimum — as well as removing the requirement that a physician’s sign-off is needed.

Another would open the way for nurse practitioners and physician assistants to be eligible for patient approvals too. Yet another would let a landlord impose “reasonable restrictions” on medical cannabis use by cardholders at the landlord’s property.

One would let a health care facility or an accredited treatment or prevention facility refuse to allow medical cannabis there. The scope of annual reports to the Legislature would greatly expand under a proposal. Another calls for a civil penalty up to $1,000 against a medical cannabis establishment for each violation that isn’t otherwise covered, up from a $150 maximum in IM 26.

One would require photo IDs for cardholders and care-givers. Another would cut the time to dispose of medical cannabis from 15 days to 24 hours for patients who no longer qualify for a card. Yet another would define safety-sensitive jobs where being under the influence of cannabis would be prohibited.

The committee endorsed some 20 sets of recommendations and defeated just as many during a long day that started at 8:30 a.m. and ended at 6:40 p.m. In the morning, the lawmakers proposed a bill legalizing marijuana for people age 21 and older as a replacement for Constitutional Amendment A that 54% of voters approved last November and is now tied up in the South Dakota Supreme Court, after Governor Kristi Noem challenged its validity following the election.

The many pending pieces now go the Legislature’s Executive Board for review. Any that the leadership group approves next month will move forward to be argued in the 2022 legislative session that opens in January.

Senator Bryan Breitling, the panel’s chairman, kept the pace moving. One that didn’t make it out was a proposal from Representative Fred Deutsch to outlaw home-grown cannabis altogether.

Ned Horsted from the Cannabis Industry Association of South Dakota argued against it. “Banning home-grown is an affront to the voters,” he said.

Representative Marli Wiese backed the ban. “As representatives it is our duty to set up a really safe program,” she said.

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