After campaigning against it, Noem expresses support on medical marijuana

Published: Jun. 26, 2021 at 12:13 AM CDT
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PIERRE, S.D. - Governor Kristi Noem has always been a staunch opponent of marijuana legalization, campaigning against it ahead of the November 2020 election.

However, Noem is now arguing that she is a long time supporter of medical marijuana.

In an email to Dakota News Now/KOTA, Noem’s Communication Director Ian Fury said that the Governor has supported the idea of legalizing medical marijuana for a long time, but only wanted it to be “approved by the FDA” first.

It is true that Noem has stated, at times, since at least 2018 that she could support medical marijuana with FDA approval. While campaigning to become Governor, Noem said “she wouldn’t support medical marijuana without FDA approval.”

However, Noem has not always been so ardent in her support. In an interview with Dakota Radio Group in 2019, Noem said “I would consider that (medical marijuana) if it were approved through the FDA process.”

Noem opposed and campaigned against both Amendment A, to legalize recreational marijuana, and IM 26. In the lead up to the 2020 election, Noem’s office said several times that she would not support either measure.

After IM 26 won overwhelmingly, Noem began to vocally express disagreement with the outcome. During her 2020 budget address, Noem called the vote on medical marijuana “disappointing.”

“I do want to call out one budget provision related to the disappointing votes on marijuana at the ballot box this year,” Noem said. “There are significant safety and regulatory costs associated with both the medical marijuana measure and the recreational one.”

Noem’s post-election opposition was not limited to one instance, “I was personally opposed to these measures and firmly believe they’re the wrong choice for South Dakota’s communities. We need to be finding ways to strengthen our families, and I think we’re taking a step backward in that effort. I’m also very disappointed that we will be growing state government by millions of dollars in costs to public safety and to set up this new regulatory system.”

During the 2021 legislative session, Noem’s office brought a bill that would have held off medical marijuana implementation a full year longer than IM 26 called for. Though that bill was ultimately defeated, opponents critiqued the bill as an attempt to “delay” medical marijuana implementation by the Governor’s office.

Fury acknowledges in his statement that Noem did in fact “not support IM-26 last year,” under the guise that it had not received FDA approval. However, despite her latest statement, it is still currently the case that medical marijuana has not received FDA approval.

This is not the first instance of cannabis causing Noem political headaches. During her first state legislative session as Governor, Noem vetoed a measure that would have legalized industrial hemp, putting her at odds with the Republican dominated legislature. In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal explaining the move, Noem stated that “states that have legalized hemp are struggling to enforce marijuana regulations. Hemp and marijuana look and smell the same.” Additionally, Noem’s office is currently seeking to overturn Amendment A in the South Dakota Supreme Court.

Fury continues “(Noem) has stated repeatedly she respects the will of the voters and is working to implement South Dakota’s medical cannabis program as quickly, safely, and responsibly as possible. We are on track to accomplish that according to the timeline approved by voters in IM-26.”

Medical marijuana becomes legal in the state on July 1st. Licenses and ID cards will not be available till later in 2021.