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'New waters for South Dakota:' Medical cannabis legal on K-12 campuses, after clearing legislative rules committee

After sending the rules package back to the drawing board last month, a group of legislators approved a Department of Education-approved rules package that requires access for youth cardholders to medical pot on public, not private, K-12 campuses.

FSA South Dakota capitol

PIERRE, S.D. — Private schools in South Dakota will not be required to administer medical cannabis, after a legislative committee approved a revised package of rules around K-12 campus use proposed by the state's leading education agency.

The original rules package, rejected last month , had included private schools under their umbrella of regulatory authority, but pushback from legislators at a June meeting sent an attorney for the South Dakota Department of Education back to the drawing board.

On Monday, July 19, before the bipartisan, bicameral Rules Committee, Amanda LaCroix, counsel for DOE, said they'd contacted counterparts in Colorado state government to clarify whether rules on Jan. 1, 2019 in the Centennial State required private schools, as well as public schools, to allow for students who are legal prescription-holders to access medical cannabis on site.

While a recent law passed in Colorado clarifies that private schools are excluded from state requirements, South Dakota's legislators on the rules committee were unsure what Colorado's marching orders were. According to the text of Initiated Measure 26, the voter-approved medical cannabis initiative passed in South Dakota, the Rushmore State's rules should mirror Colorado's as of the beginning of 2019.

On Monday, LaCroix said a senior policy assistant in Colorado told her via phone that "unlike South Dakota," Colorado doesn't "have any supervision over their non-public schools," so the 2019 campus medical cannabis rules did not encompass private schools.

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The new law passed by Colorado legislators in May that, among other provisions, explicitly excluded private schools from cannabis requirements, was "only for clarification purposes," said LaCroix.

Under the new rules package in South Dakota, public schools will largely be required to allow students who are valid cardholders to have access, via an approved adult, to medical cannabis on school campuses during the day.

After a brief discussion, the rules committee approved the new rules package.

"These are new waters for South Dakota," said Sen. Jean Hunhoff , a Yankton Republican, who sent a special message to supporters of IM 26 saying "it will be done."

According to IM 26 , the rules for the state's public schools are to be established by the first day of school — which gets underway next month. Currently, the state's public K-12 institutions will have more lenient policy than the state's public university campuses.

Last month, the Board of Regents voted to disallow medical cannabis on the state's six public universities, citing the federal prohibition against pot.

More strictures on medical cannabis usage could — and likely will — still come on South Dakota's public school districts, but on a district-by-district basis.

"With your action, school boards will begin hearings on any associated policies in the coming weeks," DOE Secretary Tiffany Sanderson told the rules committee on Monday.

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