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State Highway Patrol Adjusts Marijuana Approach

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Highway Patrol
South Dakota Highway Patrol

The South Dakota Highway Patrol is adjusting its approach to marijuana.   

The patrol says people can possess up to 3 ounces of marijuana if they can prove it’s for medical reasons.   

The voter-approved ballot measure legalizing medical marijuana becomes law July 1st.  

The Highway Patrol says if people are unable to produce a doctor’s note or a medical card, they could be charged with a crime. The state Health Department says it might not be ready to issue medical cards until October.  

Meanwhile, some state’s attorneys’ offices are holding off on charging individuals for possessing small amounts of marijuana.  

Mark Vargo is the Pennington County State’s Attorney. His office is joining at least two other counties that won’t default to charging people will possession.  

“Under three ounces—we’re going to have very little to do with that,” Vargo says. “On the other hand, if an officer believed that that was clearly not medicinal for whatever reason—I don’t know how they would prove that, but if they did they might still bring us that case and we would look at it.”  

The medical marijuana law does not allow driving under the influence or smoking in a vehicle. People also aren’t allowed to use marijuana in public. Vargo says those are separate offenses from actual possession.  

“The narrative of the rules have all disappeared is not quite true,” Vargo says. “We have to be smart about putting our effort and our time into the most important things.” 

South Dakota voters also approved recreational marijuana in November, but a lawsuit has that law on hold. The state Supreme Court is expected to rule on that case soon.