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First State-Licensed Medical Dispensary Set to Open in South Dakota

Although South Dakota has had a new legal cannabis law for over a decade, it is not clear if there have been any state-approved dispensaries that can serve patients.

This is changing.

Unity Rd. opens next week. opens its doors in Hartford, South Dakota––a town of about 3,300 located just outside Sioux Falls, the state’s largest city––it will make history as the first state-licensed medical cannabis dispensary in the Mount Rushmore State.

“We were really pushing hard to get that number one on the door to be the first legal, state-issued license,” B.J. Olson, who was also one of Unity Rd’s co-owners, spoke to the Argus Leader newspaper. “That doesn’t happen, unless you have your foot on the gas from the beginning.”

“We bought the property, we began building the building with no piece of paper, and worst case, we decided we’re gonna build a beautiful structure to lease to somebody and best case, we’re going to be the first dispensary in the state,” said Adam Jorgenson, the other co-owner.

The following is an extract from the Argus Leader, “Unity Rd. is a franchise and also has shops in Oklahoma and Colorado.”

South Dakota voters overwhelmingly approved 2020’s ballot measure that legalized medical marijuana treatment.

Officially, the law went into effect July 1, 2021. This was well before licenses were issued by the state for dispensaries. However, members of Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe started a dispensary just after last summer’s official start date. This created tension between the tribes and the state.

Governor of South Dakota Kristi Noem and other state officials have said that they will not recognize medical cannabis cards issued to individuals who are not members of the tribe.

The Argus Leader reported that, as of February, “the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe [had] issued about 8,000 medical marijuana cards to tribal and non-tribal members,” and that, “although several county- and city-level law enforcement agencies and state’s attorneys have eased up on arrests and prosecutions for possession of small amounts of marijuana all together, others, like the Flandreau Police Department are not honoring some tribal-issued medical cards.”

According to the tribe, more than 100 tribal members who were issued medical cannabis cards in July had been detained since then.

Unity Rd. will “offer a number of products including flower, vape cartridges, topicals, pre-rolls and edibles,” according to the Argus Leader, although initially “only flower will be sold, but the business expects to add products in a couple of weeks.”

The state’s medical cannabis law has faced a sluggish rollout. There were only 400 patients enrolled in this program as of April. Only 90 physicians across the state were permitted to authorize medical marijuana use for patients.

South Dakota’s 2020 amendment to legalize recreational marijuana was also passed by its voters. However, the law was overturned in South Dakota by the Supreme Court following a challenge from Republican Governor. Kristi Noem.

Noem was a likely 2022 GOP presidential candidate and celebrated the ruling.

“South Dakota is a place where the rule of law and our Constitution matter, and that’s what today’s decision is about,” Noem said at the time. “We do things right—and how we do things matters just as much as what we are doing. Our lives are still guided by the law. This decision does not affect my Administration’s implementation of the medical cannabis program voters approved in 2020. That program was launched earlier this month, and the first cards have already gone out to eligible South Dakotans.”

South Dakota has another chance to legalize recreational cannabis in the fall. However, a new measure qualifies for the November ballot.