Medical Marijuana Era Begins in SD
Thursday, July 1, 2021
PIERRE, S.D. - Today, medical marijuana technically becomes legal in South Dakota. Supporters say there's still a long way to go for most patients to access the drug, but they feel a sense of positive movement after some wrangling over the process.
Last fall, South Dakota voters endorsed the creation of a medical marijuana program. A legislative effort, spurred by Gov. Kristi Noem, sought to delay implementation.
But the bill failed, allowing legalization of medical cannabis to begin this month. Melissa Mentele, director of New Approach South Dakota, said it's a big relief for patients - suggesting they now have a legal shield with these protections.
"What they do is ensure that South Dakotans that are using for medical purposes cannot be prosecuted," said Mentele.
However, the state health department warns that rules still are being finalized and medical cards won't be issued until later this year. Until then, officials suggest a patient consult a private attorney if they plan to use or grow the drug, even with a written recommendation from a doctor.
State dispensaries aren't likely to open until next year. Independently, the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe already is opening its own dispensary.
While the process has been bumpy at times since last fall's vote, Mentele said she feels the state is now handling implementation of Initiated Measure 26 as well as it can.
"It was so thorough that it covered a lot of the stuff that the state has put out for those rules' drafts," said Mentele. "They did follow quite nicely the guidelines set in IM 26."
Mentele led the campaign behind the initiated measure, which was backed by 70% of voters.
South Dakotans also last fall endorsed recreational marijuana for adults, but that issue still is being decided in the courts.
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