Marijuana panel changes have cannabis advocates and opponents feeling boxed out
Oversight committee tasked with guiding South Dakota's medical pot program, policy
Pro- and anti-cannabis legalization advocates in South Dakota are in a tug of war over a state panel that will guide the state’s medical marijuana policy.
The South Dakota Legislature’s Medical Marijuana Oversight Committee only meets twice a year, but its makeup is at the center of contention leading up to a vote on member selection this week.
And while some outspoken opponents to loosened cannabis reforms in South Dakota say they’re being boxed out of the process by legislative leadership, cannabis industry representatives say they feel the same way as a result of new membership qualifications adopted by lawmakers earlier this year.
The Executive Board of the Legislature will convene Friday in Pierre to determine which lawmakers, law enforcement members, medical experts and industry representatives will serve on the committee.
Rep. Fred Deutsch, the Florence Republican who’s been among the most ardent opponents to marijuana reforms, won’t be one of them. He told The Dakota Scout his application to be on the committee has been rejected by House House Speaker Hugh Bartels.
“Hugh and Lee (Schoenbeck) are basically selecting the committee, unless the E-Board makes a stink,” Deutsch said.
Originally created by the passage of Initiated Measure 26 in 2022, the Medical Marijuana Oversight Committee is tasked with recommending policy adjustments and updates to South Dakota’s medical marijuana program.
MAKEUP OF COMMITTEE QUESTIONED
But Deutsch and other ideological allies, like Rep. Kevin Jensen, R-Canton, felt dissatisfied with the work done by the committee in 2022. The pair along with Sen. Helene Duhamel brought legislation to modify the makeup of the committee to include fewer cannabis industry representatives and medical marijuana patients and more law enforcement officials and legislators.
“It was like the foxes were guarding the hen house the way it was,” Deutsch said of the previous makeup of the committee. “Ideally, you want to have people who can look rationally and say is this right?”
The law previously required three people involved in the cannabis industry to be appointed, and three qualified patients as well. No cannabis industry representation is now required and the committee will have just one medical marijuana patient.