RAPID CITY, S.D. – For the first time, South Dakota lawmakers are being scored on their votes regarding the implementation of cannabis laws.
The Cannabis Industry Association of South Dakota, New Approach South Dakota, and South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws released the scorecard that analyzes votes over the course of the 2022 legislative session in Pierre and assigns each legislator a grade.
The goal is to keep state voters informed of legislators’ decisions when it comes to marijuana implementation.
“During the 2022 legislative session, there were a large number of votes on cannabis-related legislation and our Scorecard is intended to put all of that information in one place,” said Matthew Schweich, campaign director for South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, which led the 2020 campaign that passed Amendment A and Measure 26. “Our analysis will allow South Dakota voters to quickly and easily evaluate how their elected officials voted on cannabis bills this year.”
Melissa Mentele, executive director of New Approach South Dakota, the state’s long-standing grassroots cannabis reform organization, says legislatures need to be held accountable. “For the past two sessions, cannabis reform advocates have successfully defeated a significant number of bills that would have adversely affected patients and providers of medical cannabis who rely on Measure 26, the medical cannabis law approved by voters in 2020.” “Despite overwhelming public support for medical cannabis, there are still many legislators in Pierre who are committed to rejecting the will of the people on this issue. Given the political climate, we think that accountability is very important.”
The groups pointed to a number of major successes during the 2022 legislative session. Cannabis reform advocates defeated bills that would have: repealed the affirmative defense for medical cannabis patients; repealed home cultivation by cannabis patients; outlawed medical cannabis edibles; and enabled local governments to completely ban all medical cannabis businesses.
Advocates also pointed to the passage of SB 26 as an important victory. This legislation will improve access to medical cannabis cards by allowing physician assistants and advanced practice registered nurses (in addition to doctors) to write medical cannabis recommendations for qualifying patients.
But more work needs to be done, said Schweich. ”There remains a disconnect between the politicians in Pierre, and the people of South Dakota, and that’s not a surprise to anyone. However, we are still pleased with this session. We defended the medical cannabis law from several harmful changes, and we also passed a recreational cannabis bill through the South Dakota Senate.”
The scorecard can be found on the SD for Better Marijuana Laws website.