According to a new law in South Dakota that has had a messy implementation, eligible patients can now formally apply for a medical cannabis card.
The Department of Health and Human Services’ notification on Monday brings an end to months of uncertainty and disagreements around the new medical marijuana law, which was adopted by a landslide by South Dakota voters at the ballot box in the previous year’s election.
The announcement stated that “once patients are certified by a physician, they will be able to access the online application process and complete their respective applications.” Applicants who are approved will receive a medicinal cannabis patient identification card in the mail.”
A parliamentary rules committee accepted amended regulations published by the Department of Health last month, and the announcement comes just two weeks after the committee adopted the revised rules.
According to state officials, outside of that dispensary, medicinal marijuana sales are not scheduled to begin in South Dakota until 2022.
As a part of the new medical marijuana law, Noem participated in public service advertisements that were shown across the state for much of this year. Noem is widely considered to be a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2024.
The law went into force on July 1. However, there were no dispensaries operational on that day, except for one that was part of a Native American reserve in the state.
State officials were wary of the cards issued by the tribally owned dispensary; at the time, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem stated that the state’s highway patrol would not recognize tribal-issued cards if they were presented by individuals who were not tribal members.
“As governor, one of my responsibilities is to ensure that the will of the people and all constitutional provisions are carried out. According to one of the advertisements, “the medicinal cannabis program is on schedule, and we’re working to put in place a reasonable program that respects the direction provided by the people,” Noem stated.
Despite this, the advertisements sparked controversy last month when it was found that they had been paid for using taxpayer funds to a tune of more than $300,000.
Some critics expressed dissatisfaction with the advertising, pointing out that Noem had been vocally opposed to the medical marijuana plan throughout the 2020 campaign. The public service announcements provided nothing in the way of relevant information.
A referendum measure to allow recreational marijuana use for adults in South Dakota was approved by voters. Still, the law has been hampered by obstacles erected by Noem and other opponents. In February, the ballot proposal, a constitutional amendment known as Amendment A, was knocked down by a South Dakota judge after it was challenged by a pair of state law enforcement officials on Noem’s behalf.
The judge ruled against the amendment, stating that it “would have far-reaching consequences for the fundamental nature of South Dakota’s governmental system.”
Decision overjoyed Noem
The ruling, Noem noted at the time, “protects and secures our constitutional rights and freedoms.” When asked to weigh in, I’m convinced that the South Dakota Supreme Court will reach the same result if called upon to do so.
However, while the state Supreme Court is still deliberating on the matter, a legislative panel has recommended that lawmakers pursue legislation that would legalize recreational marijuana with a 15 percent tax rate on sales. In the meantime, the state Supreme Court is still deliberating on the matter.
The special committee deliberated on the issue for six months, beginning in the spring of last year, until issuing its final report late last month.