South Dakota Police Arrest Patients Enrolled in Tribal Medical Cannabis Program

South Dakota law enforcement officials are arresting medical cannabis cardholders issued by the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe, arguing that the cards are invalid for non-tribal members.

Full story after the jump.

Law enforcement officials in South Dakota are arresting people who have been issued a medical cannabis card by the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe, contending that the cards are not valid for non-tribal members, according to a KFGO report. The tribe operates the only medical cannabis dispensary currently operational in the state.

Tribal officials told KFGO that more than 100 people who have been issued a card by the tribe have been arrested since the dispensary opened in July. The state Department of Public Safety and the attorney general’s office have taken the position that the medical cannabis cards aren’t valid for non-tribal members and Flandreau Police Chief Zach Weber told KFGO that his department is following that directive and arresting people with cards if they are not tribe members.

In 2020, 70% of South Dakota voters approved a medical cannabis ballot initiative and state lawmakers approved most of the Department of Health-authored program rules in September but rejected some parts of the plan including limiting the amount of high-potency cannabis patients can possess, requirements that medical practitioners could write recommendations for patients that want to grow more than the three plants allowed under the law, and a defined list of qualifying conditions. The Legislature’s Rules Review Committee signed off on new program rules as recently as October.

Earlier this month, the South Dakota state Senate voted 25 to 10 to strip an affirmative defense provision from the medical cannabis law, which would have provided some protection for the state’s cannabis patients by allowing those charged with possessing cannabis to get out of the charges by demonstrating a medical need for cannabis, even if they don’t have their medical card yet.

The state Health Department issued its first establishment registration certificates under the program last month, but sales have not yet commenced.

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