Dist. 20 legislators detail challenges of making medical marijuana regulations during Mitchell discussion
Legislators prepared for another recreational marijuana measure
MITCHELL — District 20 legislators gave Mitchell community members a glimpse of the challenges they are facing to lay out the state’s medical marijuana regulations.
After spending the past three weeks in Pierre for the first month of the 2022 legislative session, Rep. Paul Miskimins and Lance Koth, along with Sen. Josh Klumb, met with Mitchell community members Friday morning at the Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce to discuss several key bills and laws being proposed. But the medical marijuana topic emerged as a major item of discussion among the legislators and the group of the constituents they represent in Pierre during Friday’s Coffee and Conversation event.
For Koth, the uncertainty of how the state and cities will police and regulate the cannabis industry has him concerned. Koth predicted the state will have to create a new division solely to regulate the marijuana industry, including dispensaries and manufacturing facilities.
“Who is going to make sure that what they are dispensing really is medical marijuana? I don’t know,” Koth said. “I predict we’re going to have a state marijuana division, and that’s all they are going to do.”
Koth also emphasized the importance of taxing the medical cannabis industry in such a way that makes it "pay for itself." For example, he noted the revenue generated from the industry should be used to fund additional law enforcement, if neccessary.
South Dakota voters approved a ballot measure in November 2020 that legalized medical marijuana in the state, and legislators have been ironing out regulatory policies over the past few weeks in Pierre. However, all three Republican legislators who represent the Mitchell area and surrounding counties, indicated it’s been a challenging process filled with some uncertainties.
Among the key proposed cannabis bills that have been discussed by legislators during the 2022 legislative session include a House bill that seeks to ban home-grown marijuana cultivation and another pushing to ban marijuana edibles. The House recently struck down the bill that would have banned THC-infused edibles after a House legislator explained the medicinal value edibles have on his grandchild who suffers with multiple seizures, the Senate has yet to vote on a pair of bills seeking to limit the amount of plants that can be grown in the homes of medical cardholders.
Miskimins said representatives in the state House and Senate have spent “a lot of time” examining studies and other states’ medical marijauana program to improve South Dakota’s program.
Miskimins used Mitchell to compare the state of Iowa’s medical marijuana program, noting there are three cannabis dispensaries nearing full approval by the city, while the entire state of Iowa has a total of three dispensaries.
“These bills are an effort to put better guide rails to be placed on this process. We’re trying to put the best system we can to provide health care and relief of pain like helping children having seizures, but not have it turn into a total mess for law enforcement, our youth and society,” Miskimins said, noting there have been five medical marijuana bills discussed during this year’s legislative session. “Everyone has good intent for safety and regulation, but there is disagreement.”
While the medical marijuana measure passed with 70% of voter support, so too did an amendment that would have legalized recreational cannabis in the state. But the South Dakota Supreme Court recently struck down the recreational marijuana amendment – which was narrowly approved by 54% of voters in 2020 – deeming it unconstitutional due to the way it was added to the ballot.
During Friday’s event, a question from a community member asked the legislators how they are preparing for another potential amendment seeking to legalize recreational weed.
Although the recreational cannabis measure was killed by the state’s high court, Klumb said he’s anticipating the same type of measure will be on the November 2022 ballot. However, this time, the measure would be on the ballot by itself, which Klumb said could impact the amount of votes it receives. In the November 2020 election, the recreational cannabis legalization measure was included alongside the medical marijuana measure, leading some elected officials concerned that voters did not understand they were approving both medical and recreational cannabis legalization measures.
“Most legislators know it is coming,” Klumb said of a potential recreational marijuana ballot measure reappearing in 2022. “Even though it passed once, it had medical marijuana in that title, and maybe people read that and thought that’s what they voted for.”
Klumb said there have been discussions among legislators about enacting policies of their own, but the third-term senator noted doing so through changing the state’s Constitution is “totally inappropriate.”
“I still don’t think there is an appetite to do recreational marijuana ourselves. Right now, most of our intentions are getting the medical marijuana program up and running well and safely. We don’t want it to be a dark alley thing.”
Regardless of how things unfold around recreational marijuana in the near future, Klumb is strongly opposed to legalizing recreational cannabis. Several key concerns of his center around the effects recreational marijuana could have on the workforce and society as a whole.
“I will do everything I can to prevent it from happening. I do not think it will be a beneficial help to our society and overly short workforce we have,” he said. “I’m afraid of what it would do to our existing workforce. It’s going to lead us down a road we don’t want to go.”
Klumb criticized the process of people getting an amendment on the ballot, pointing to it as an action that means “they can’t get their ideas to a conservative legislator.”
“They will keep doing it that way. Can we stop it? We could, but you don’t want us to because it would take away the right of the people to do this,” he said. “You have to be really aware of these things when you are voting.”