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South Dakota lawmakers reject school rules for medical marijuana
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South Dakota lawmakers reject school rules for medical marijuana

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The South Dakota state Capitol in Pierre

South Dakota lawmakers on Monday rejected rules proposed by Gov. Kristi Noem's administration that would have set parameters for students who need to use medical marijuana at school.

A legislative committee sent the rules back to the Department of Education for revision after complaining that they would have required access to medical pot in private schools and did not spell out what activities would be off-limits to students who used medical marijuana.

While voters passed a law that requires state agencies to roll out a medical pot program this year, progress has been slow. Noem had proposed delaying the implementation of the law, arguing that her administration needed more time to study the issue and create a program, but that effort failed in the Senate. The Republican governor is now tasked with overseeing the program rollout, even though she opposed it when it was on the ballot in November.

The Department of Education must come up with policies that allow students with a medical marijuana ID card to use the drug while at school. It has until the beginning of the school year to finalize the rules, though the state will not begin issuing ID cards until November.

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Secretary of Education Tiffany Sanderson had proposed rules to allow schools and school nurses to opt out of administering medical marijuana but that would have allowed caregivers to enter schools to do so. Medical marijuana advocates said that arrangement would have placed an unnecessary burden on the parents and caregivers of students who need medical marijuana for conditions such as epilepsy. Lawyers from the Department of Health said their approach would give flexibility to schools to develop a plan with students who used medical marijuana.

But lawmakers, looking to further limit medical pot use by students, sent the proposal back to the Department of Education.

Republican Rep. Kevin Jensen said he would like to see the rules detail whether students using medical marijuana are allowed to participate in athletics or classes that use machinery. Rep. Jon Hansen, another Republican, argued that the law would not require private schools to allow students to use medical marijuana on the premises.

“We’re shooting at a moving target here,” Jensen said. “There are a lot of agencies that are really involved with a lot of change here, but I’m really uncomfortable moving forward with certain rules when all of those pieces aren’t in place yet.”

Some health experts say medical cannabis, when given in the correct doses, can be used by children without producing a high though researchers are still studying the issue. The American Academy of Pediatrics opposes using medical marijuana, but has also said it recognizes it may be an option for “cannabinoid administration for children with life-limiting or severely debilitating conditions and for whom current therapies are inadequate.”

The Department of Education will next rework the state rules and try to get final approval from the legislative committee tasked with signing off on state agency rule changes.

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