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State's secretary of health hopes to be issuing medical marijuana cards by November

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Malsam-Rysdon Headshot (horiz.)

Kim Malsam-Rysdon, secretary of health for the South Dakota Department of Health

South Dakota's top health official told lawmakers Wednesday she is trying to avoid missing a November deadline to start issuing medical marijuana ID cards by holding a series of meetings to head off any objections to its proposed rules.

As the state prepares for medical marijuana to be legalized this year, the Department of Health has found itself balancing concerns from medical pot advocates, physicians, law enforcement and government bodies. The department, which has been tasked with setting up much of the state's pot program under a law passed by voters last year, will hold a series of meetings and a telephone town hall as it seeks to address concerns before its rules go into effect.

During a legislative meeting Wednesday, Republican Sen. Lee Schoenbeck questioned whether objections to the rules could result in a delay of “weeks or months,” but Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon said she is hoping to avoid delays.

The department is aiming to have a “solid set of rules” in place by the fall, but expects them to change over the next few years, she said. A legislative committee is also studying the issue to look at changing the law during coming sessions.

“We’ll have a continual process of refinement,” Malsam-Rysdon told lawmakers.

Gov. Kristi Noem has argued that the state doesn't have enough time to set up the program and tried but failed to delay implementation during this year's legislative session. She said hasty rollouts in other states have turned into a “mess.”

Meanwhile, the Department of Revenue indicated it would charge sales tax on medical marijuana purchases. Although prescription drugs are exempt, the department's chief legal counsel, Michael Houdyshell, said the tax would apply because medical pot is not legally prescribed.

Instead, under the new law, physicians will issue a written certification that a patient has a “debilitating medical condition” that could benefit from medical pot use. The patients will then be able to obtain an ID card and purchase cannabis from state-licensed dispensaries.

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