Mehlhaff sponsored bill allowing law enforcement oversight of medical marijuana dispensaries passes Senate, now moves to House

JANUARY 23, 2024:

Law enforcement and other designated state agencies would have more rights to inspect, search, and impose disciplinary actions against medical cannabis facilities under a bill passed by the South Dakota Senate Monday (Jan. 22, 2024).

District 24 Senator Jim Mehlhaff of Pierre is the prime sponsor of SB71.

Currently the South Dakota Department of Health being the only entity with authority to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries, cultivation, testing and manufacturing sites. In previous committee action, medical cannabis supporters said there’s currently nothing preventing law enforcement from searching a facility if they have probable cause.

South Dakota voters approved medical marijuana in 2020. Proponents said the reason for the law allowing only the Department of Health to inspect, etc. medical marijuana facilities was to protect the new industry in the state. Proponents say the industry is now mature and no longer needs such protection.

“I have been fighting this bill for three years now,” said Republican Sen. David Wheeler from Huron. “I’m not going to anymore. The industry has been around for a few years. I’m not aware of problems with dispensaries, no problems with law enforcement.”

SB71 passed 26 to 7. It now goes to a House committee for further consideration.

(Todd Epp, South Dakota Broadcasters Association, contributed to this story.)


JANUARY 17, 2024:

By Todd Epp
South Dakota Broadcasters Association

PIERRE, S.D. (SDBA) — The 2024 South Dakota Legislature continues to tinker with the citizen-passed medical cannabis law.

This morning (Jan. 17, 2024), the Senate Health and Human Services Committee passed three bills that add requirements or modify the medical marijuana program.

SB10, which passed 5 to 0, requires that a patient’s primary care physician is notified when their patient receives a medical marijuana card.

SB11, which also passed 5 to 0, prevents a practitioner from referring a patient to a medical cannabis clinic that the provider or their immediate family has an interest in.

SB71, which passed 4 to 1, makes it easier for local law enforcement and other government entities to inspect, search, seize, prosecute, or impose disciplinary actions on medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation, manufacturing, and testing facilities.

Republican Sen. Erin Tobin from Winner sponsored SB10 and SB11. She said SB10 provides a good standard of patient care. As to SB11, Tobin says it mirrors Medicare and Medicaid, where a provider cannot self-refer, calling it a conflict of interest.

With SB71, Republican Sen. Jim Mehlhaff from Pierre, the sponsor, said the medical marijuana law passed by voters in 2020 constrains local law enforcement. He said he understood why the law left inspection to the Department of Health only to help develop the new industry. However, he says the law has been on the books for several years, but now it is time to allow local law enforcement to also check on compliance.

Two industry lobbyists spoke against the bill. S.D. Cannabis Association lobbyist Jeremiah Murphy says the passage of medical marijuana was a “180-degree cultural shift” and that the law draws a bright line around medical cannabis. He said, “The voters have spoken.”

Genesis Farms lobbyist, former Attorney General Roger Tellinghuisen, said the current law adequately guards the Department of Health to do their inspections and cannabis facilities do obey the law. He said law enforcement can already investigate if they have probable cause.

The bill passed 4 to 1. The measure now heads to the Senate.

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