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State Highway Patrol?Adjusts Marijuana Approach

South Dakota Highway Patrol


The South Dakota Highway Patrol?is?adjusting its approach to?marijuana.?? 

The?patrol?says?people can possess up to?3 ounces of?marijuana if they?can prove it’s for medical?reasons.?? 

The?voter-approved ballot?measure legalizing?medical marijuana?becomes law July 1st.? 

The Highway?Patrol says?if?people?are?unable to produce a?doctor’s?note or a medical card,?they?could be?charged with a crime.?The?state?Health Department says?it might?not be ready to issue?medical cards?until October.? 

Meanwhile, some state’s attorneys’ offices are holding off on charging individuals for possessing small amounts of marijuana.? 

Mark Vargo is the Pennington County State’s Attorney.?His office is joining at least two other counties that?won’t?default to charging people will possession.? 

“Under three ounces—we’re going to have very little to do with that,” Vargo says. “On the other?hand, if an officer believed that that was clearly not medicinal for whatever reason—I don’t know how they would prove that, but if they did they might still bring us that case and we would look at it.”? 

The?medical?marijuana?law does not allow driving under the influence or smoking in a vehicle. People also aren’t allowed?to use marijuana?in public. Vargo says those are separate offenses from actual possession.? 

“The narrative of the rules have all disappeared is not quite true,” Vargo says. “We have to be smart about putting our effort and our time into the most important things.” 

South Dakota voters also approved recreational marijuana in November, but a lawsuit?has that law?on?hold. The state?Supreme?Court?is expected to rule on that case soon.? 

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.