Yankton Co. Waiting On Cannabis Rules

Come July 1, don’t expect anyone to be staking their claims for a medical marijuana dispensary in Yankton County’s jurisdiction —at least until county officials have a better idea of the direction the state will go in terms of licensing.

A day after the Yankton City Commission considers the second reading of its ordinance allowing the licensure of medicinal cannabis dispensaries this Monday, the Yankton County Commission is set to hold a second reading on a temporary ordinance essentially prohibiting dispensaries in the county’s jurisdiction until state rules on licensing are set.

County Commission chairperson Cheri Loest told the Press & Dakotan that the county is pumping the brakes for now.

“Essentially what we’re doing is delaying medical marijuana use until the state has the rules in order,” she said. “It gives us a little bit of time to focus on the best direction for medical marijuana outside municipality limits.”

She said the ordinance would not apply to Yankton or other county municipalities which are free to come up with their own ordinances, much like the City of Yankton has.

“The City of Yankton is going down the path to go ahead and write an ordinance around medical marijuana,” she said. “They’ve chosen not to put in a temporary ban, if you will, but the county has taken the stance that, ‘We’d like the state to come out with their rules so any ordinance or any licensing that we choose to do, we don’t have to redo because it doesn’t align with what the state is planning to do.’”

The South Dakota Department of Health has set Oct. 29 as a deadline to set eligibility and licensing rules at the state level.

Loest said she’s heard little in the way of feedback on a temporary ordinance, which was considered for a first reading at the county’s June 1 joint meeting with the Yankton County Planning Commission.

“I’ve not had any citizens give me a call or stop me and voice whether they’d like one establishment, 10 or 20 or anything like that,” she said. “It’s actually been pretty quiet from that perspective.”

She said she hasn’t heard of any other towns in the county that intend to pass their own ordinances nor has she heard of anyone with interest in building a dispensary somewhere on county land.

Loest said that County Commission and Planning Commission are going to need to use the coming months to figure out what their next steps will be.

“If we want to amend our zoning ordinance to say we’re going to allow establishments only in a commercial district, for example, that has to go through our Planning Commission in order to have the public hearings and the come before the County Commission to have public hearings,” she said. “We could simply do like a liquor license-style and say, outside of city limits — if you will — we have one, two or three licenses and it’s a first-come-first-served basis and not restrict where they go. There’s two different avenues there and the County Commission has not had a real firm discussion on where we stand on that.”

And she said that those discussions on what to do after the state’s rules come down will likely be starting soon.

“We absolutely need to get that going sooner rather than later,” she said. “I’ve heard some rumor about special sessions on the Legislature’s part, but again, those are just rumors at this point. It’s best that the county anticipate that we have to have a structure in place by the end of October so we are ready to handle whatever comes our way.”

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