Not only is the possession, cultivation and distribution of cannabis illegal statewide, but testing positive for cannabis can also be a misdemeanor offense. Medical cannabis is once again set to be put to the vote in 2020, though ‘Measure 26’ is likely to face heavy opposition along the way.
Who Qualifies for Medicinal Marijuana in South Dakota?
For the time being, the answer is nobody – South Dakota lacks even a basic medical cannabis policy. Several initiatives have been brought forward over the last five years or so, though either failed to gain traction right off the bat or were subsequently voted down by state officials. As recently as 2016, an initiative that would have enabled qualifying patients to both access medical cannabis and designate a registered person to cultivate therapeutic marijuana on their behalf received a disappointing 36% of the vote.
If state residents are finally able to gain access to medical cannabis in 2020 or 2021, the initiative currently under discussion outlines a series of qualifying conditions. Patients will therefore need to have been diagnosed with one of the following to access medical cannabis in South Dakota:
- Crohn’s Disease
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
- Ulcerative Colitis
- Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy
- Agitation of Alzheimer’s Disease
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Hepatitis C
- Cachexia or Wasting Syndrome
- Severe and persistent muscle spasms — including those characteristics of Multiple Sclerosis
- Severe, debilitating pain
- Severe nausea
As no formal decision has yet been reached, all of the above remains speculative for the time being.
How Will the Medical Cannabis Application Process Work?
The Department of Health for South Dakota will handle all applications, which for the most part will be submitted and processed online. In order to apply for medical cannabis in South Dakota, patients will need to complete an application form and provide the following information:
- Full name and address
- Date of birth
- Contact information
- Written recommendation from a physician
- The physician’s contact information
- Details of designated caregiver
- Designated dispensary information
- Information on how the cannabis will be administered
Worth noting is how a physician’s recommendation for medical cannabis would not constitute an outright prescription. It will ultimately be down to the Department of Health to determine whether or not a patient is eligible for medical cannabis, if the policy is enacted.
Additional Notes on Cannabis in South Dakota
South Dakota is famed for having some of the harshest penalties in the United States for simple cannabis possession. Even as a first-time offender, it is possible to be slapped with a fine of up to $2000 and spend a year in jail, simply for carrying a small amount of cannabis for your own personal use.
Even more alarmingly, it’s technically possible to be busted in South Dakota for consuming cannabis in a different state where it is perfectly legal. This is the only state in North America to have introduced an “internal possession” law, which effectively means that if you have traces of cannabis in your system, you’re liable for the same punishments as those that apply to conventional cannabis possession. Given how it’s possible to test positive for cannabis use days or even weeks after consumption, this is a dangerously draconian law of no relevance for the benefit to anyone.
South Dakota is also one of several states where African Americans are significantly more likely to be arrested and charged for cannabis possession than Caucasians.
Will South Dakota Legalize Recreational Cannabis?
As the state is only just beginning to take baby steps towards medical cannabis legalization, recreational legalization is off the cards indefinitely. South Dakota continues to punish low-level cannabis crimes more severely than just about any North American state, wasting the time, money and resources of local authorities.
Penalties for possession of cannabis are extreme enough, but are even more severe where hashish and cannabis concentrates are concerned. Even as a first-time offender, being caught in possession of cannabis byproducts like these can result in a fine of up to $10,000 and five years behind bars. Hence, the phrase that comes to mind when talking about recreational pot legalization is “don’t hold your breath”.