County puts pause on pot

Jason Ferguson

The Pennington County Commission has joined a growing list of towns, cities and counties across the state that has placed a moratorium on issuing permits and licenses for medical marijuana pending further instruction from the state.
At its June 2 meeting, the commission unanimously approved Ordinance No. 727 a temporary ordinance that puts a hold on issuing such permits or licenses.
“We don’t want to go and do something and have to redo it in October or November,” said commissioner Ron Rossknecht of Hill City. “The less we have to get involved (the better). We are so busy with other stuff, it was kind of a no-brainer for us.”
Medicinal marijuana was legalized last November through Initiated Measure 26, which was passed by around 70 percent of state voters. While the new law takes effect July 1, the South Dakota Department of Health has been allocated 120 days to promulgate the rules regarding the marijuana. That gives the state until October to craft the rules, although it is expected the rules will be proposed by the state as early as August.
The county has been in contact with other counties, as well as the state, in regards to how to proceed on the issue. The South Dakota Municipal League, as well as the South Dakota Association of County Commissioners, has recommended the temporary ordinance placing the moratorium.
“We’re leaning on them to give us guidance so when it does happen we’ll know what we can do,” Rossknecht said.
Rossknecht said there are a variety of issues to sort through, including what a property would have to be zoned to host a dispenary, grow facility, etc., as well as the human resources issue as to whether or not county employees would be allowed to smoke medicinal marijuana.
“It’s going to affect a lot of different departments,” he said. “How are we going to work with that and when there is a policy in place what position will we take? How will departmens have to change different things to bring it into the system?”
Rossknecht said if someone were to apply for any type of marijuana license while the moritorium is in place it would be rejected, adding he isn’t even sure if someone can apply since the is no policy in place.
Rossknecht said many of his constituents have contacted him regarding the issue, and are concerned with any type of marijuana being legal, whether it’s medical or recreational. Some fear it’s going to be a stepping stone to more public use of marijuana in the future.
“I’m anxious to see how we treat it when we finally have to sit down and figure out what direction we are going to go,” he said.

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