Press "Enter" to skip to content

Highway Patrol to Cut Slack for Medicinal Marijuana Users Carrying Three Ounces or Less

Recreational marijuana is still held up in our laggardly Supreme Court, but medical marijuana is now legal in South Dakota. Acknowledging the law and the will of 69.92% of the voters, the South Dakota Highway Patrol is adopting new standards for busting pot possessors:

The South Dakota Highway Patrol will issue guidance to its personnel consistent with the Framework, effective July 1.  The Framework covers questions for the most common situations South Dakota residents hoping to benefit from access to medical cannabis are likely to face after IM 26 goes into effect:

  1. “What if I don’t have a medical cannabis card?” ANSWER: Highway Patrol personnel will not, at the scene of a stop or interaction, arrest a South Dakota resident who is unable to present an unexpired medical cannabis card, as long each of the following apply:
    • The individual possesses no more than three ounces of natural and unaltered marijuana, as defined by SDCL 22-42-1;
    • The individual claims at the time of the interaction that the medical cannabis is to treat or alleviate a debilitating medical condition as defined by the Department of Health;
    • The individual produces printed or electronic documentation relative to the debilitating medical condition from a licensed medical doctor.
  1. “What if I have a nonresident card?” ANSWER: Highway Patrol personnel will not arrest nonresident cardholders for possession of cannabis, nor will they seize the cannabis or any associated paraphernalia, if the following applies:
    • The cardholder presents an unexpired medical cannabis card issued by another state; and
    • He or she possesses no more than three ounces of natural and unaltered cannabis, as defined by SDCL 22-42-1;
  1. “What if I have a tribal card?” ANSWER: The nonresident card provision applies in this instance, so long as the cardholder is an enrolled tribal member and presents an unexpired medical cannabis card issued by the resident’s tribe [Office of the Governor, press release, 2021.06.30].

SDPB’s Lee Strubinger summarizes the new HP framework as, “The patrol says people can possess up to 3 ounces of marijuana if they can prove it’s for medical reasons.” But Pennington County State’s Attorney Mark Vargo says the HP had better think twice about that burden of proof:

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” [Lee Strubinger, “State Highway Patrol Adjusts Marijuana Approach,” SDPB, 2021.07.01].

Of course, the average citizen’s concerns about interactions with law enforcement are moot if we all just keep it between the ditches and make sure our blinkers work. And hey, as with any medication, if your medical cannabis makes you loopy, please, don’t get behind the wheel. Stay home, chill out, and send your roomie to Kum-and-Go for munchies.


  1. Bob Newland 2021-07-01 08:16

    Back about 1990, it was a misdemeanor to possess up to half a pound of weed. Bill Janklow got the legislature to reduce that to two ounces, making 2.00001 ounces a felony. Whap! On July 1 that year (or thereabouts) quite a few people who had been petty offenders the day before suddenly were looking at five years in the pen.

    Now, after thirty years and substantial repeated silliness on the part of the legislature and various governors, three ounces is a line of demarcation between…, uh, something and nothing, I guess.

    That’s what happens when, as Steve Allender put it, you decriminalize criminal behavior. Oh well, let’s let billionaires make mercenaries of our National Guard, just to change the subject.

  2. John Dale 2021-07-01 08:28

    No mention in the article or the headline that it was Governor Noem that signed the order.

  3. Bob Newland 2021-07-01 08:52

    Yep, John, that Kristi is sharp as a tack. Having astutely read the wind, she has now “always supported medical cannabis.”

  4. Ryan 2021-07-01 08:54

    John, noem didn’t do a damn thing. Every single thing that is in this guidance or standards or whatever you want to call it is the law effective as of July 1. They are just giving their officers and staff the crib notes because they don’t trust that the coppers have read and understand the law. None of this is new, none of this is from the grace of the governor or the police. They are saying here is a cheat sheet on how to apply that TERRIBLY BURDENSOME 6 page law that we passed.

  5. Ryan 2021-07-01 09:21

    The real news is that Minnehaha Co. sheriff, and Lincoln Co. sheriff, and Sioux Falls police admit that our laws are a mess and that it’s a waste to use taxpayer money to arrest and prosecute people for cannabis possession. They are voluntarily walking away from arrest and investigation regarding possession, even when the medical defenses aren’t applicable. Sweet baby jeebus, their common sense nearly leaves me speechless.

  6. Mark Anderson 2021-07-01 10:28

    Well, a Michigan man who used it legally in Michigan with all the paperwork got busted in Alabama, he and his wife lost their baby. The cops took it at the scene.. All this business needs to be done nationally.

  7. Bob Newland 2021-07-01 10:59

    Well, Sleepy Joe and the democrat cabal could take care of this in about ten minutes. But, noooooooooo.

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-07-01 12:48

    Wrong, John: the voters did this. The voters forced the state to change its policies, after years of resistance from every elected Governor and every Legislature. Noem gets zero credit for achieving this policy change.

    She signed this order because she had to. If the HP continued to bust every person with any trace of pot in the car, the defendants would go to court, tangle the cops up in IM 26, and the case would be thrown out. The cops and the smart lawyers like Vargo probably had to pound it into her head that continued universal pot arrests are a losing proposition and a waste of thin state resources.

  9. Porter Lansing 2021-07-01 15:14

    Y’all are gonna have a sky high pheasant season, with all the out of staters bringing whiskey, wine, and weed and doping up the hookers, brought in from Minnesota and Florida.

    You better hide, grudzie. They know where you live.

  10. Arlo Blundt 2021-07-01 18:00

    Well…there is likely to be a short period of unrestrained nonsense as the inexperienced pot users learn how to act when they are high. There will be a notable group of the uninitiated, who become the newly initiated, and respond with overt silliness in public. Hopefully, they will not be armed. People should remember the watchword, “Until you know your stash, it is best to never get off outside your own abode. Be Prepared or Be Repaired.”

  11. STC 2021-07-02 11:15

    *Up in Smoke* with Sgt Stedenko on our tail. Yee Haa !

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.