Issue: Medical and recreational marijuana laws have yet to be decided


Editorial Board

Many South Dakotan citizens have sat twiddling their thumbs, waiting to receive access to legal marijuana. As we approach the one-year anniversary of South Dakota becoming the first state in the US to legalize adult-use marijuana at the same time as medical cannabis, the question still looms: where’s our weed?

South Dakota Initiated Measure 26, the Medical Marijuana Initiative, passed with 69.92% of the vote Nov. 3, 2020. Under Initiated Measure 26, medical marijuana became legal in South Dakota July 1, 2021.

The United States recognizes Indigenous tribes as domestic dependent nations with sovereignty over their members and territories, so Flandreau was able to open the first legal marijuana business in the state. 

South Dakota’s current medical marijuana law means law enforcement would have to accept Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe medical marijuana ID cards regardless of tribal status of someone found in possession of 3 ounces or less of cannabis; however, these stipulations continue to be debated by police forces in the region.

Nov. 1 is the official day when the medical marijuana program launches in South Dakota and applications open,.However, this does not guarantee that a dispensary has been approved in your town.

South Dakota Constitutional Amendment A, the Marijuana Legalization Initiative, passed with 54.18% of the vote on Nov. 3, 2020. The measure would have legalized recreational marijuana in South Dakota effective July 1, 2021; however, the amendment has been held up in the courts since late last year due to several opponents. One of which is none other than our governor, Kristi Noem.

Noem’s administration remained headstrong in delaying Measure 26 and fully preventing Amendment A from happening until now. In a conference with Republican members of the South Dakotan House and Senate Oct. 7, Noem said, “I’m probably not going to get out in front and drive the train too much on [cannabis policy]. I’m going to let you guys tell us what you have consensus on and give you feedback and information on it. If you guys are waiting for me, I wouldn’t do that.”

Now the decisions, rules and laws pertaining to citizens’ weed are in the hands of our state House of Representatives and Senate. Two chambers which are infamous for being unable to come to agreement are deciding what the people of South Dakota have already decided for themselves–people should have access to marijuana.

Many politicians and citizens of South Dakota see through the Noem administration’s dilly-dallying and stalling. This has led to groups and committees taking it upon themselves to make the voter’s decisions be heard and acted on. 

Rep. Hugh Bartels, a Watertown Republican and chairman of the Adult-Use Marijuana study committee is working to somewhat streamline the legalization process. Bartels proposes a bill that would compromise the Medical Marijuana Initiative. This is because, under this bill, there would be no need for medical cards for adults over the age of 21. Youth, however, would still be able to apply for medical cards through the Department of Health.

South Dakota for Better Marijuana Laws is just one other group attempting to streamline the process by gathering signatures to force a recreational marijuana measure on the 2022 ballot.

Even with these groups working to set safe and prompt consumption laws, what is the expected timeline? Why has the democratic process been continuously stalled for the past year? Why are there no clearly established laws and rules? Where is our weed?


The Collegian Editorial Board meets weekly and agrees on the issue of the editorial. The editorial represents the opinion of The Collegian.