Marijuana leaves towns dazed

Leslie Silverman

Black Hills towns are figuring out what to do with the July 1 introduction of medical marijuana to the state. Passed in November 2020, initiated Measure (IM) 26 established a medical marijuana program in South Dakota for individuals who qualify. The measure would allow patients to possess up to three ounces of marijuana.
However, the state has not implemented rules or guidelines for the new industry leaving municipalities all over the region scrambling on what to do.
In an effort to help, the South Dakota Municipal League of Local Governments created ordinance templates to assist towns and cities across the state, according to executive director Yvonne Taylor.
Brett McMacken, Hill City Administrator, says “some are just adopting that one the way it is.”
However Hill City won’t be one of those towns. McMacken, sees three issues facing Hill City. Consumption, what marijuanna looks like in the public eye, and the business end such as dispensaries and factories.
“We’re digesting what everyone else is putting together,” McMacken said.
McMacken expects the topic to be brought up at a common council meeting at some point in the next few weeks and has not ruled out special meetings on the topic. Whether the town has an ordinance in place by July 1 when the drug becomes legal for medical use remains to be seen.
“I know my city. Fifty percent of calls are adamantly against it. Fifty percent want to sign up to be cultivators,” he said.
There are a number of factors for Hill City to consider including the number of businesses the town would allow and where these businesses would be located. The city also needs to be concerned about the public health of its citizens.
McMacken is most concerned with the state’s rollout or lack thereof.
“There should have been a state effort on how this will be rolled out. Cities have been left in a lurch because the state does not have any rules or guidelines in place.”
Technically people can apply for a license from the state July 1, with a 90 day time to process. However the state has an Oct. 29 deadline to create rules for the industry. The process is being enacted at the state level versus the local level, which currently oversees the handling of liquor licenses. Marijuana, unlike liquor, will be a state license.
“Municipalities issue liquor licenses, process permits, etc. We are the front line people and we send that information to the state. The state will need to prove itself in this capacity since it has no proven track record,” McMacken said.
While Hill City is taking a wait and see attitude and “learning a lot from” other communities, Keystone is taking a very different approach and is contemplating the template ordinances of the Municipal League. The template ordinance prohibits the “ingesting of marijuana in any public place” within the city. It specifically defines marijuana, ingestion and public places. It also makes possession within city limits illegal. The town has discussed the ordinance at its most recent board meeting and will have a hearing on the matter June 2.
One concern about consumption is what is allowed when taking a smoke break at work.
“I think it needs to be real clear for businesses, “ said Trustee Sandi McLain. “Because they don’t see it the same as alcohol.”
Another concern is with the image of the town.
“I think it’s really important as a town that has families all the time,” trustee Casey McNulty said.
The town is also considering adopting another template ordinance which essentially says the town won’t make any decisions regarding businesses until the state creates industry rules.
The temporary ordinance, according to finance officer Cassndra Ott, is really just “kicking the can down the road.” Her biggest concern is that the state will take until Oct. 29 to create industry rules and that the temporary ordinance will expire at that same time
 “If the state waits until the 11th hour we won’t have time to get a new ordinance in place,” she said.
An ordinance takes anywhere from 30 to 60 days to pass.
Another issue facing Keystone is its lack of planning and zoning laws. Currently Keystone could have dispensaries, shops or factories next to churches or even residences.
“We’re going to have a hard time regulating where they exist,” Ott said.
Cities such as Deadwood, Lead and Spearfish have already discussed medical marijuana measures at city meetings.

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