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South Dakota Senate OK's 5 more proposed changes to medical marijuana law

Citing "carveouts" for the medical cannabis industry, critics removed a provision appearing to protect dispensaries from wanton police searches.

FSA South Dakota capitol
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PIERRE, S.D. — The South Dakota Senate continued on Wednesday, Jan. 26, to overturn, tweak and amend the voter-approved medical cannabis program, still months from becoming operational.

The Senate passed another five bills that strike through or add language to the law known as Initiated Measure 26. They approved changes that range from just how often the Department of Health reports annually to the Legislature about the program's success to greater police enforcement powers over dispensaries.

All the measures were vetted this summer by the interim legislative committee on marijuana, but debates lingered into Wednesday's vote. The narrowest passage came on Senate Bill 16, which removed three sections that seemingly offered protection by dispensaries from harassment by police.

The measure 's main proponent, Sen. Helene Duhamel , R-Rapid City, said the bill merely clarifies that police — not the Department of Health — can take the lead on investigations and enforcing the law in dispensaries.

"It doesn't mean that police can traipse through an establishment," Duhamel said.

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After noting that the bill would remove sections 8, 9 and 10 of the law, Senate Minority Leader Troy Heinert , D-Mission, said, "I find it dangerous that we're going to repeal something approved by an overwhelming majority of voters."

But Sen. Jim Stalzer , R-Sioux Falls, objected to what he said were "carveouts" for the cannabis industry embedded in IM 26's language.

"I don't believe this industry deserves more protections than the rest of our citizens," Stalzer said.

The measure passed on a 19-16 vote.

Other changes include clarifying that medical facilities — including mental health centers and treatment centers — can impose "reasonable restrictions" on the use of medical cannabis on site.

"Nothing in this section requires a facility to adopt such restrictions," said Sen. Bryan Breitling , R-Miller, the chair of the summer study committee.

The senate also revoked a portion of IM 26 that Sen. David Wheeler , R-Huron, said appeared to afford outsize rights to parents who use medical cannabis in child custody disputes. Wheeler called it "an anomaly in our jurisprudence" regarding custody and visitation rights of parents.

"The touchstone in any custody decision has always been what is the best interest of the child," Wheeler said. "It should remain that way."

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All five bills will now proceed to the House of Representatives.

Christopher Vondracek covers South Dakota news for Forum News Service. Email him at cvondracek@forumcomm.com or follow him on Twitter at @ChrisVondracek.
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