South Dakota governor confirms that medical cannabis program will be delayed until 2022

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

On Wednesday, February 10, Governor Kristi Norm announced that South Dakota’s medical cannabis program will not be implemented until July 1, 2022. The news, first reported by Associated Press, arose just one day after a judge rescinded a voter-approved recreational cannabis amendment. 

According to Republican governor Noem, the delay in establishing South Dakota’s medical cannabis program is essential. Why? Because the previous implementation date would not have granted researchers enough time to thoroughly investigate a prospective market.

Noem dropped the bomb that the state’s medical cannabis market may not actually be implemented until 2023, since companies will need ample time to launch facilities and cultivate medicinal-grade plants.

An overview of South Dakota’s medical cannabis ballot initiative 

Based on state statutes, South Dakota’s voter-approved medical cannabis ballot initiative would go into effect on July 1, 2021. However, patients will still need to wait one year or more before they see a fully operational market transpire.

“This measure legalizes medical use of [cannabis] by qualifying patients, including minors. “Medical use” includes the use, delivery, manufacture-and for State residents, cultivation-of [cannabis] and [cannabis]-based products to treat or alleviate debilitating medical conditions certified by the patients’ practitioners,” reads an excerpt from the ballot summary. 

As per the 95-section measure, the Department of Health must issue registry identification cards to qualified and enrolled patients within 140 days of the measure going into effect. A campaign was led by New Approach South Dakota and South Dakota for Better Marijuana Laws in support of IM 26 and Amendment A.

South Dakota’s Republican lawmakers will continue pushing for recreational cannabis legalization

In November of last year, voters in South Dakota approved Amendment A. The passing of this measure allowed adults aged 21 and older to use the plant for recreational purposes, as well as possess a maximum of one ounce.

Then, on February 8, 2021, a South Dakota judge sided with law enforcement officers who had initiated a lawsuit on behalf of Governor Kristi Noem. Law enforcement officers were granted summary judgement for filing the lawsuit, which challenged Amendment A. 

According to the court, because the proposed amendment was unconstitutional, it became void. Specifically, Amendment A was in violation of South Dakota Constitution’s “single subject rule.” Nonetheless, two Republican lawmakers in South Dakota have announced that they will continue encouraging the Legislature to legalize recreational cannabis.

Noem has not been shy about her hopes to legalize recreational cannabis, what with the governor publicly announcing her support for the lawsuit that attempts to overthrow South Dakota’s recreational cannabis amendment.