South Dakota medical marijuana card demand prompts regulatory concerns

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A group of South Dakota lawmakers, regulators and law enforcement officials are raising concerns the state has issued too many medical marijuana cards for patients.

Jennifer Seale, the state’s MMJ program administrator, told the Legislature’s Republican-controlled Medical Marijuana Oversight Committee that the program has issued nearly 12,000 patient cards.

That total doubles initial projections at least a year ahead of estimates, according to South Dakota Public Broadcasting.

The strong demand led some lawmakers on the committee to question the legitimacy of the MMJ card approval process and recommend stricter monitoring, including requiring approval from a primary doctor or board-certified specialist.

The basis for many of the claims made during the meeting by law enforcement and the committee’s ranking Republican members to enhance oversight were unsubstantiated, according to a report by Sioux Falls TV station KELO.

In July 2022, Unity Rd. became the first state-licensed MMJ dispensary, opening in Hartford, near Sioux Falls.

In 2020, 54% of voters approved a measure that would have permitted commercial cultivation and sale of recreational marijuana, but a state-sponsored lawsuit overturned that decision.

At the time, South Dakota was the first state where voters approved both medical and recreational marijuana during the same election.

Last November, South Dakota voters shot down a measure that would have allowed adults to possess and use home-grown cannabis, though it would not have created an adult-use marketplace.

A new set of proposed rules for South Dakota’s MMJ program could be introduced in November to the Legislature, where the GOP has a trifecta in which Republicans control the governorship and both chambers.