Yankton County’s Pot Plans

July 1 is 11 weeks away and counting.

South Dakota’s 66 county governments — mindful that this marks the implementation of Initiated Measure 26 which legalizes medicinal marijuana and its distribution in the state — hardly need to be reminded of this timeline.

The state is a different matter.

While IM 26 garnered 70% approval from voters last November, 2021 has seen the South Dakota Legislature fail to pass a legal framework for medicinal sales while other state entities have been slow to come up with their own regulations.

Despite this, Yankton County Commission Chairperson Cheri Loest told the Press & Dakotan that county officials are working to keep as on top of the legalization process.  

“Commissioners (Wanda) Howey-Fox and (Dan) Klimisch have been keeping in touch with the city about their plans for the first phase of marijuana,” she said. “We have been in contact with our state association, some of the planning districts and have asked other counties where they’re at and possibly sharing their vision for this first phase of marijuana implementation.”

According to Loest, it’s essentially the most the counties can do at this point.

“The challenge lies in the rules around the whole system that, to my understanding, are to be written by the Department of Health,” she said. “At this point, we have no idea how many licenses will be allowed for the distribution of medical marijuana, where those facilities will be allowed to locate, whether the state says each county gets so many per population, if they have to be in the larger cities, if they can be outside the city limits, etc. At this point, it’s tough.”

Loest said it could be well after the July 1 implementation of IM 26 that the county gets any set of ground rules from the state.

“This goes into effect July 1,” she said.” We have been told, I think, it’s 60 days or so after that the Department of Health is supposed to have their rules outlined. Certainly, we don’t foresee medical marijuana sold on July 1. It will be a little bit after that.”

Loest said she was unaware of any interest in opening a medical marijuana dispensary in any of the smaller communities throughout Yankton County.

In the meantime, the City of Yankton has been working its way toward a potential ordinance. Yankton City Commission work sessions in February and March were both utilized to consult with Bill Efting, a retired administrative official who held a number of positions in municipal governments throughout Colorado, including during that state’s transition to legalization of marijuana. The City Commission will also spend its next work session April 26 discussing marijuana and a potential ordinance.

Loest said the county is also looking into potential options for moving forward if the state continues to keep it in the dark.

“We’re really waiting for some information from the state, but if that is not forthcoming in the near future, we must commit to having a stand-alone ordinance, amending our current zoning ordinance or possibly going the route of a liquor license-style implementation,” she said. “Those are the three routes, or you do nothing — and I don’t think the last option is a good option.”

She said the public will be invited to give its input on any actions pursued, as with any other ordinance or county action.

“Those discussions should encircle all of the municipalities in the county,” she said. “It’s certainly not just one entity involved in this. If the Supreme Court swings and says recreational marijuana is good to go, that’s a whole other step in the process with the Department of Revenue being involved more heavily in that one. Having those discussions along with the municipalities in the county is a good way to talk about the whole ballgame.”

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Meanwhile, the Yankton County Commission is set to meet for its regular meeting Tuesday. The board is slated to discuss a rezoning request, county employee insurance, two plats, an amendment to the Joint Powers Agreement, quarterly reports from several departments and an update on the progress of Planning Commission-level discussions on amendments to Article 5 of the zoning ordinance.

The board will also hold executive sessions regarding litigation and poor relief.

The Yankton County Commission meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the commission chambers of the Yankton County Government Center.  

Follow @RobNielsenPandD on Twitter.

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