South Dakota Governor Delays Implementation of Medical Marijuana Initiative

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South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem announced on Wednesday that she is seeking to delay the implementation of a successful voter initiative to legalize medical marijuana. The state’s voters approved Initiated Measure 26 (IM 26) to allow qualified patients to use cannabis medicinally in the November general election with nearly 70% of votes cast.

Under South Dakota law, initiatives and amendments are supposed to go into effect on July 1 of the year following passage. But Noem announced this week that she is seeking to delay the implementation of the medical marijuana initiative by one year, with the support of fellow Republicans in the South Dakota Senate and House of Representatives.

“We are working diligently to get IM 26 implemented safely and correctly,” Noem said in a statement released by her office on Wednesday morning. “The feasibility of getting this program up and running well will take additional time. I am thankful to our legislative leaders for helping make sure that we do this right.”

To effect the change, lawmakers introduced House Bill 1100 in the House State Affairs Committee on Wednesday morning. The measure amends a pending state statute prompted by the passage of IM 26 and replaces several instances citing the original start date of the measure with the date “July 1, 2022.” The bill also creates a legislative task force to draft legislation legalizing medical marijuana while addressing issues left unclear in the initiative, such as which methods of consumption should be allowed to comply with a requirement that schools accommodate medical marijuana use by qualified patients.

Consulting Firm Cited To Justify Delay

To justify the delay, Noem cited a letter from Cannabis Public Policy Consulting (CPPC), a firm that has assisted state and local governments across the country and in Canada with the implementation of cannabis legalization measures. According to CPPC, creating a safe, efficient, and effective medical marijuana program takes an average of 14 months.

“There is no doubt that IM 26 passed in South Dakota, and it is fully our intention to honor the will of the voters,” said House Majority Leader Kent Peterson. “Based upon the experiences of other states, we know that it takes time to start implementing a safe and workable program. We will get the job done.”

Not all lawmakers, however, approve of the delay. Democratic Senate Minority Leader Troy Heinert said that the electorate has decided to legalize medical marijuana this year, not in 2022.

“The voters passed IM 26 by an overwhelming margin and it is the legislature’s job to ensure its implementation,” Heinert told local media. “Anything less is unacceptable and we must respect the will of the voters.”

Noem is also involved in an effort to overturn the voters’ approval of Amendment A, a proposed amendment to the South Dakota Constitution that would legalize and regulate recreational marijuana for adults. A lawsuit supported by the governor has been filed against the measure, which was approved by 54% of voters in November’s election. On Monday, a South Dakota circuit court judge ruled that the measure is unconstitutional and nullified the amendment. Supporters of Amendment A have vowed to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.

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