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420 with CNW — How the South Dakota Criminal Justice Sector Could Be Impacted after Cannabis Legalization

Drug reform was one of the biggest winners of the November ballot. Several states legalized either recreational or medical cannabis, with Oregon going a step further and decriminalizing all drugs. In South Dakota, voters approved two cannabis ballot initiatives: Amendment A, a constitutional amendment that will allow people aged 21 and older to possess and distribute up to an ounce of cannabis, and Measure 26,  a medical cannabis initiative that would allow patients with debilitating conditions to possess and purchase up to three ounces of cannabis from a licensed dispensary.

The measure to legalize recreational use will become law on July 1 with the state’s Department of Revenue being tasked with developing license regulations by April 1, 2021. The state Department of Health will be in charge of medical cannabis, and it has until Oct. 29, 2021, to craft regulations and until Nov. 18 to issue patient registration cards. In the meantime, South Dakotans have been cautioned against smoking or selling cannabis before the new laws go into effect next year. This warning was issued by Eric Whitcher, the head of the Public Defender’s Office in Pennington County.

Incidentally, the recreational measure may not even end up being law. Last week, Sheriff Kevin Thom and Colonel Rick Miller filed a lawsuit in Hughes County arguing that the amendment violates the constitution. If the lawsuit isn’t successful, aspiring sellers and customers will have to wait until July next year for the measure to become law. But unlike similar measures that have legalized recreational cannabis in other states, the new cannabis laws will not require the automatic expungement of records for people with prior marijuana-related convictions.

Such individuals will either have to individually ask a court to expunge their records or seek a pardon via the Board of Pardons and state Governor Kristi Noem. According to former U.S. attorney Brendan Johnson, who introduced Amendment A, the new laws will lead to a drop in arrest numbers, less wasted police manpower and funds, and fewer people being permanently affected by arrest records. A 15% sales tax will be levied on recreational cannabis sales, with the funds being directed towards the state’s general fund and public schools.

The Department of Health will be in charge of regulating the medical side of the industry. It will be required to set up a comprehensive regulatory system within 140 days after Measure 26 goes into effect. Patients who have medical marijuana cards will not be allowed to smoke in public or drive under the influence. Additionally, landlords, employers and schools will not be allowed to reject cardholders.

Thom has said that sheriff deputies will continue making marijuana-related arrests until the new laws kick in.

Elsewhere, cannabis programs are well underway, and some of the growing pains highlighted above no longer exist. For instance, Michigan launched its recreational marijuana program and entities such as Gage Cannabis Co. are surging ahead with plans to satisfy this growing market.

About CNW420

CNW420 spotlights the latest developments in the rapidly evolving cannabis industry through the release of two informative articles each business day. Our concise, informative content serves as a gateway for investors interested in the legalized cannabis sector and provides updates on how regulatory developments may impact financial markets. Articles are released each business day at 4:20 a.m. and 4:20 p.m. Eastern – our tribute to the time synonymous with cannabis culture. If marijuana and the burgeoning industry surrounding it are on your radar, CNW420 is for you! Check back daily to stay up-to-date on the latest milestones in the fast -changing world of cannabis.

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