PIERRE, South Dakota (STL.News) Whenever our state faces a major policy change, it’s the role of the state government to ensure that it is implemented and regulated in a way that best benefits the people of South Dakota. Our role is to create and administer a program that operates safely and effectively. This past week, legislative leaders and I announced our plan to guarantee a safe and effective program for medicinal marijuana.
This past Fall, voters strongly supported access to medicinal marijuana in our state. We’re committed to respecting that vote, and it’s our role to make sure that South Dakota patients have access to safe and accessible medicinal marijuana. In doing so, we will be taking into consideration every aspect of this major cultural shift.
Since starting to tackle this issue, the more that we’ve dug into it, the more that we’ve realized that there are still questions that need to be answered before this program takes effect. We know that we’re not experts in this area, so we contracted with the nation’s leading consultant – the folks at Cannabis Public Policy Consulting – to help us understand how to best implement this program. Our experts told us that they had never seen a safe and effective program stood up in under 8 months, the timeline set up by Initiated Measure (IM 26). In other states, it took much longer – even up to 2 or 3 years – to do this right. So this week, we announced our plan to do this right.
Our plan does two things. First, it gives us additional flexibility on the implementation timeline. The medicinal marijuana program will take effect on July 1, 2022. Additionally, our plan sets up an interim committee to meet between now and next legislative session to address the wide-ranging questions that we still have and the diverse policy decisions that should be open for public input.
IM 26 did not cover all the areas that need to be addressed to implement this program effectively. In other areas, we have concerns with what IM 26 put into place. Should cities or the state have oversight over licensed establishments, and to what extent? What testing do we need to do to ensure that products are safe for human consumption, and who is charged with testing? Should marijuana be allowed to be grown at home, as is permitted under IM 26? What will the taxation system look like? What will the system look like for students taking medicinal marijuana in school? And so on.
We are committed to getting this done. And we are committed to getting this done right. It will take time to implement a safe and effective system, and we are going to take the time that it requires. The people of South Dakota deserve nothing less.