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Licensing Board Bans Medical Marijuana For Law Enforcement



A legislative committee is approving a rule that prevents law enforcement officers from using medical marijuana. 

That rule conflicts with a voter-approved medical marijuana program. The program prevents disciplinary action against licensed professionals for using medical cannabis. 

The Law Enforcement Officers Standards and Training Commission is changing the definition of moral conduct by officers and 9-11 dispatchers. That includes preventing marijuana use, which was approved by voters in November. 

Paul Bachand is with commission. 

He says if law enforcement officers are involved in a shooting while on duty, they’re given a urinalysis test after the fact. If officers have marijuana in their system... 

“That creates a whole host of problems related to not only that shooting, but similarly his certification,” Bachand says. “When you look at federal law, marijuana is a controlled substance under the federal controlled substances act and says you cannot possess a firearm.” 

Bachand says he did not look at what nearby states are doing about cop licensure and medical marijuana policy. He says the law enforcement licensing board is comfortable with the language in the new rules.  

The Colorado Peace Officer Standards and Training Board does not have a similar rule. There, employers have the legal right to ban off-duty use of certain substances by their employees.  

South Dakota Democratic Representative Ryan Cwach voted against the licensure rule change. He says it should not include 9-11 dispatchers. 

“It’s hard for me to see how—if a doctor prescribed them medication for their anxiety that may come from having a difficult job—if the doctor felt that medical marijuana off hours was the best for that dispatcher, I don’t understand why we’re prohibiting that,” Cwach says. 

The new rule conflicts with a provision in the voter-approved medical marijuana program. That provision protects licensed professionals from losing their certification if they have a medical marijuana prescription. Governor Kristi Noem wanted to delay implementation of the program for a year so lawmakers could study any conflict in state law. Legislators declined to go along. 

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.