South Dakota lawmakers reject a handful of medical pot rules

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota lawmakers on Monday rejected a handful of rules proposals governing medical marijuana from Gov. Kristi Noem’s administration but approved the bulk of the program.

The Legislature’s Rules Review Committee, which is responsible for approving administration rules, effectively told the Department of Health to try again on a number of controversial rule proposals. Most of the Department of Health’s 124-page proposal got the sign-off from the Legislature, spelling out rules ranging from fees for cardholders to the heights of fences around cannabis growing facilities.

The rules they rejected included proposals that would have limited the amount of high-potency marijuana that patients could possess, required medical practitioners to write a recommendation for patients who wanted to grow more than three cannabis plants, and defined a list of conditions that would qualify for a medical marijuana recommendation.

The law allowing medical marijuana, passed by 70% of voters last year, has seen a halting acceptance from officials trying to balance a clear mandate from voters while placing restrictions on medical marijuana.

The rules set a $75 application fee for medical marijuana cards and discount the fee to $20 for low-income applicants. It also sets a state licensing fee of $5,000 for any medical marijuana facility.

Noem celebrated the Legislature’s approval of most of the rules, saying that it put her administration on track to implementing the medical cannabis program.

“I commend the Department of Health for its hard work to streamline the process,” she said in a statement. “South Dakota will continue to implement the best, most patient-focused medical cannabis program in the country.”

Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon said she was “disappointed” the committee rejected the list of specific medical conditions, saying that it was based on public input.

A host of lobbyists, representing both medical groups and the cannabis industry, objected to some rules, though nearly all praised the Department of Health’s rule-making process. For the most part, lobbyists from both the cannabis industry and medical groups convinced lawmakers to reject rules they raised issues with.

During a meeting that stretch over five hours, lawmakers questioned Malsam-Rysdon on the rule-making process. A rule proposal that would have limited the amount of high-potency marijuana that patients could possess drew considerable questioning.

“Concentrated cannabis in a smokeable form is shown to be more addictive,” Malsam-Rysdon told lawmakers.

But they were not convinced by that argument and rejected the limitation on high-potency marijuana.

The Department of Health has held public town halls and meetings with industry groups throughout the summer. Malsam-Rysdon said her department had adjusted rules based on 42% of comments submitted by industry groups or individuals. She said the rest of the suggested changes were rejected either because they conflicted with existing state law, were deemed to have an impact on health and safety, or were found to be unnecessary.

“We expect to see changes as this process evolves,” Malsam-Rysdon said, referring to the Legislature considering potential changes to the law next year.

The Department of Health will have just weeks if it decides to rework the rejected rules and resubmit them to the Legislature. The medical marijuana law requires the state government to enact the rules by Oct. 29 and be ready to issue ID cards by Nov. 18.

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