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Meade County Sheriff and Challenger Agree Medical Marijuana Cards Causing Trouble—Where’s the Statewide Database

Meade County Sheriff Ron Merwin is running for reëlection in the June primary. He faces only one challenger, DCI agent Pat West. Both are Republicans, so Republican voters will pick the county’s sheriff on June 7.

Both West and Merwin say medical marijuana is creating headaches for law enforcement, since they have no way to check all the medical marijuana cards that doobage-doers are waving to get out of jail:

Pat West: “…I understand there is a medical use for marijuana, but the problem that we’re gonna run into is what is the legitimate marijuana card and what is not…. So, when it comes to the medical marijuana card, you’re gonna have a lot of forgery. I work prescription fraud and joint diversion part time right now and there’s a lot of fraud going on. You’re just going to allow people to make up those cards and there’s no database for us to look it up. No database to figure out who has a legitimate card and who does not.”

Ron Merwin: “I agree with Pat. The legalization of marijuana has put law enforcement in South Dakota is very precarious situation because there is no way for us to check on legitimacy of these things. And there’s no way of us to find out whether their card is legit or even the doctor’s legit. Our hands are tied, and it makes it very difficult” [Deb Holland, “Meade County Sheriff Candidates Face Off at Forum,” Black Hills Pioneer, 2022.04.30].

Did I miss something? Initiated Measure 26, now codified as SDCL Chapter 34-20G, directs the Department of Health to create a secure phone or web-based verification system to allow Sheriff Merwin and Agent West to perform exactly the checks they want:

Within one hundred twenty days of July 1, 2021, the department shall establish a secure phone or web-based verification system. The verification system shall allow law enforcement personnel and medical cannabis establishments to enter a registry identification number and determine whether the number corresponds with a current, valid registry identification card. The system may disclose only:

  1. Whether the identification card is valid;
  2. The name of the cardholder;
  3. Whether the cardholder is a qualifying patient or a designated caregiver;
  4. Whether the cardholder is permitted to cultivate cannabis plants;
  5. The registry identification number of any affiliated registered qualifying patient; and
  6. The registry identification of the qualifying patient’s dispensary or dispensaries, if any [SDCL 34-20G-45].

That statute seems pretty straightforward: create a database, give cops access, cops punch in cardholder names and/or their random ten-digit alphanumeric identification number, and beep-boop-beep-boop! we know in 4.20 seconds whether a pot card is legit or not. The state requested proposalsto build such a verification system in April 2021. The Department of Health hired California-based Accela in October 2021 to provide and run that system for $176,125 a year for five years. The contract reflects the statutory requirement that the registry be in place by November 18, 2021. The registry West and Merwin say they don’t have thus should have been available for almost six months now.

Maybe the problem is that the state has been slow to add medical marijuana patients to its registry and has been issuing flimsy paper cards with ink that doesn’t stick, while the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe has managed to issue durable plastic pot cards to over 10,000 patients. The tribe operates its medical marijuana program independently of the state, so perhaps the majority of cards out there, even on the opposite side of the state from Flandreau, are from the tribe and are not entered into the meager state database law enforcement can access.


  1. Daniel Buresh 2022-05-06

    There is a 24 hour tribal phone line with the number listed on the back of the cards that can be used to verify legitimacy. They can make one call to determine if tribal cards are valid. The tribe is doing a great job managing their program and the state could take a few lessons if they weren’t trying to slow things down on purpose and cause issues to delegitimize the program. I’m glad my parents have easier access and a tribe who cares about helping people with debilitating issues.

  2. AmyB 2022-05-06

    But I thought Kristi Noem and her administration were working hard on setting up the program…at least that’s what she claimed in her PSA when she said she’s been in favor of it for years. Shocking that with the state of the medical marijuana program that those claims turned out to be lies. I wouldn’t be surprised if she claims that it’s a wreck because they were forced to put it together so fast.

  3. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-05-06

    Daniel, thanks for sharing that information. Are Sheriff Merwin and Agent West not aware of this tribal verification number they can call? Or are they just blowing smoke in concert with the state to sandbag deployment of medical marijuana and harass patients like your parents who are complying with the law?

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-05-06

    Amy B, “working hard” is apparently beyond the capabilities of the state and law enforcement when it comes to implementing a law passed by the people to provide more health care options to South Dakotans. Funny—Sheriff Merwin was just complaining about people not wanting to work hard, but apparently he can’t even pick up the phone to call Flandreau and check a medical marijuana registry card.

  5. Nick Nemec 2022-05-06

    If it is too hard for the state to run a medical pot card program maybe they should just legalize pot and be done with it.

  6. Nix 2022-05-06

    Let the Tribes of South Dakota run the entire Cannabis program for the state.
    Their hearts are in the right place unlike
    the DOPES in Pierre.
    For crying out loud.
    We are going to have to pass recreational cannabis TWICE for the Dopes to get the message.
    West and Mervin….Get used to it.

  7. Ryan 2022-05-06

    cory, i think the problem is the state doesn’t recognize the tribal card as valid for non-members of that tribe. so even if these sheriffs could look up a tribal card and it says the card is valid, the state wouldn’t consider it valid. our state is so dumb. it’s hilarious. imagine, with all the time and money they spent killing amendment A, and playing stupid games with medical cannabis, what could our elected officials done to help people with all of those resources? the backwards priorities in this state are laughable.

  8. Scott Ehrisman 2022-05-06

    Nick is correct. Just make it legal for everyone over 21 and it is a done deal. Oh that’s right, SD voters already did that. My bad.

  9. Eve Fisher 2022-05-06

    There’s also the little problem that both Avera nor Sanford are unofficially not allowing their doctors to issue medical marijuana cards. So try and get one outside of the tribe.

  10. P. Aitch 2022-05-06

    decriminalize – verb

    de·​crim·​i·​nal·​ize | \ (ˌ)dē-ˈkri-mə-nə-ˌlīz , -ˈkrim-nəl- \
    decriminalized; decriminalizing; decriminalizes
    Definition of decriminalize
    transitive verb
    : to remove or reduce the criminal classification or status of
    especially : to repeal a strict ban on while keeping under some form of regulation
    decriminalize the possession of marijuana

  11. Arlo Blundt 2022-05-06

    Another example of the Noem administration’s inability to govern. It is a competence issue.

  12. grudznick 2022-05-06

    Toking up with the demon weed is just a way to fry the mind and slowly leads to criminal acts and more ugly drugs. These are facts that have been proven #4Science.

  13. DaveFN 2022-05-06

    “Is Marijuana a Gateway Drug?” by The National Institute on Drug Abuse

    “… the majority of people who use marijuana do not go on to use other, “harder” substances. Also, cross-sensitization is not unique to marijuana. Alcohol and nicotine also prime the brain for a heightened response to other drugs and are, like marijuana, also typically used before a person progresses to other, more harmful substances.

    It is important to note that other factors besides biological mechanisms, such as a person’s social environment, are also critical in a person’s risk for drug use. An alternative to the gateway-drug hypothesis is that people who are more vulnerable to drug-taking are simply more likely to start with readily available substances such as marijuana, tobacco, or alcohol, and their subsequent social interactions with others who use drugs increases their chances of trying other drugs. Further research is needed to explore this question.”

    See the extensive pdf file:

  14. grudznick 2022-05-06

    Kinda funny how the other fellow running for Sheriff in the Republican Primary up there in the County of Meade, in the very same article said:

    Pat West:

    I used to work narcotics a lot. I bought and sold dope on the street. I’m huge against marijuana. I understand there is a medical use for marijuana, but the problem that we’re gonna run into is what is the legitimate marijuana card and what is not. Last time I worked for the Sturgis Police Department last year and the state’s attorney made the decision that we’re not going to prosecute anybody or even arrest them if they have three ounces or less. Well, that’s possession with intent. That’s crazy. So, when it comes to the medical marijuana card, you’re gonna have a lot of forgery. I work prescription fraud and joint diversion part time right now and there’s a lot of fraud going on. You’re just going to allow people to make up those cards and there’s no database for us to look it up. No database to figure out who has a legitimate card and who does not.

  15. Bob Newland 2022-05-06

    Pat West is a punk. I’ve known him for 30 years. He has no conscience except that which was provided him by a system that relied on turning people against each other for doing nothing, except fulfilling market attractions or personal desires, under the threat of prison.

    He’s “huge against marijuana.” This is a typical cop bullsh@t statement, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

  16. DaveFN 2022-05-06

    Bob Newland

    “…except fulfilling market attractions”

    That suggests that those who use marijuana are easily influenced by the market as well as unable to think for themselves.

    Is that what you imply? It’s what I infer by what you write. Please clarify.

  17. All Mammal 2022-05-07

    Booze is the main gateway drug for young people. For many major issues, the data is balderdash. Just keep peeling your eyes and putting an ear to the ground. Some things are blatant without microscopes.
    Weed isn’t for everyone. Some people do not like strangers to see them smile. And they don’t feel like laughing at themselves. Some people don’t like the anxiety of secret squirrel tracking them all the time. Keep it out of reach of kids, and only get froggy if you choose, and we’ll be golden.
    Drink to remember. Smoke to forget.
    Drunks cry about the same thing over and over. Like The Little Prince says when he encounters the tippler in Antoine de Sainte Exupery’s classic:
    “What are you doing there with all those empty bottles?” inquired the Little Prince.
    “Drinking” answered the tippler, in solemn reverie.
    “To forget.”
    “Forget what?”
    “That I am ashamed.”
    “Ashamed of what?”
    “Of drinking.” sad.
    THC can be useful for PTSD. Tried and true for thousands of years. It helps some people to move on after tragedy. Imitations and synthetics are dangerous, as well as redundant.
    I like practicing the concept of treating people like competent, good people. You will rarely be let down. Treat someone like a criminal, they tend to become criminals. Sage wisdom from the Tao Te Ching.
    With all the missing kids in our state, it is shameful to still be debating frivolous mootness like a plant that causes peace, love and munchies and boys kissing boys. Sheriffs forget the real problems.

  18. grudznick 2022-05-07

    Ms. Mammal, you posted blogging that when you were drunk, right? It’s a sloppy mess.

  19. Nix 2022-05-07

    Actually the sloppy mess is the South Dakota GOP.
    Lead by a Drunk.
    Someone please let Gary Cammack that
    he still has puke on his boots.
    That booze is bad.
    Really bad.
    It will make you act like a South Dakota GOP member.
    Tip of the day:
    Drink booze… Kristi is HOT !
    Fire up a left hander and find out she’s

  20. All Mammal 2022-05-07

    Naw, Mr. G, fortunately I haven’t done that in a coon’s age. New years, I believe. I was, however half asleep, squinting at my phone with one eyeball while trying to remember The Little Prince without having to get up to retrieve my copy.
    I will make a better effort to clean it up. Sometimes at that ungodly hour, it reads fine while proofing it horizontal/sideways. Perhaps, the only way it can be deciphered is while doing a headstand. Just joshing.
    I don’t mean to disrespect the fine readers with my sober, yet out-there thoughts.

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