South Dakota Medical Marijuana Activists Propose Alternative Legalization Timeline After Governor Pushes Delay

MJ moment

As marijuana reform advocates prepare an appeal to a court ruling invalidating a voter-approved recreational legalization initiative, they’re also hoping to reach a deal with South Dakota’s governor and lawmakers over the timeline to implement a separate medical cannabis reform measure. And they want legal protections for patients in the interim. As passed by voters in the November election, regulators are required to develop rules for a medical marijuana program by July 1. But Gov. Kristi Noem (R) proposed legislation to delay implementation by an additional year—a request that advocates say is excessive and puts patients at risk of ongoing criminalization. As a compromise, reform groups New Approach South Dakota and South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws have put forward an alternative plan that would still push back the effective date of the legalization measure, but by less time. Simultaneously, it proposes amending the governor’s legislation to offer legal protections for medical cannabis patients even before they’re formally registered . The House State Affairs Committee approved the implementation delay bill last week, and it was expected to be considered on the floor on Monday but it was deferred for later action. Matthew Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project who worked on South Dakota reform campaign, said during a briefing that lawmakers from both chambers have expressed interest in adding their compromise legislation to the proposal, though he did not name any who have committed to sponsor the proposed compromise. Melissa Mentele, campaign director behind the medical cannabis legalization initiative, said “our goals are simple: protect medical marijuana patients and the effectuate the will of the people.” “This compromise allows us to do this, even if it’s at a slower pace,” she said. “The people of South Dakota want results. They want their vote votes to be respected. They…

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