Lawrence County hears first reading of medical marijuana ordinance

Courtesy photo

DEADWOOD — In regard to medical marijuana, Lawrence County will lay low until the state promulgates regulations.

A temporary ordinance regarding the issuance of local medical cannabis establishing permits and/or licenses passed through first reading May 25 at a joint meeting of the Lawrence County Commission and Lawrence County Planning and Zoning.

The ordinance states that the county needs further study of the relationship of medical cannabis establishments to the county comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance and that the public interest requires that the county study, analyze, and evaluate the impacts of medical cannabis establishments and to fully explore the impacts of any proposed regulations regarding medical cannabis establishments.

That said, the county made a preliminary finding that it would be inappropriate for the county to issue a local permit or license to a medical cannabis establishment prior to the South Dakota Department of Health’s promulgation of regulations, passing the temporary ordinance to not accept applications for a local permit and/or license to operate a medical cannabis establishment until such regulations are in place.

The ordinance will remain in effect for up to one year, with a potential for two years maximum.

“All we’re doing at this point is saying you have to get a license through the county, but we’re not issuing any licenses until we get directive from the Department of Health,” Flanagan said.

Lawrence County Deputy State’s Attorney Bruce Outka added that the county has recently completed its comprehensive plan, which may require adjustment to consider cannabis locations, as well as planning and zoning considerations.

“We’re going to deny all permits until we get more direction from the state,” said Planning and Zoning Chairman Travis Schenk.

“If anybody would submit an application, it would be denied, at this point, yes,” Outka said.

Three proponents voiced their opinions on the matter, while no opposition was voiced during a public hearing.

Mitch Roemer of Deadwood expressed a desire for the commission to demonstrate strong leadership to keep business surrounding the cannabis local and make sure outside interests don’t infiltrate the community and take over.

Liz Tiger of Spearfish emphasized the approved cannabis use is medical and not recreational, adding her goal with advocating on the matter is for help individuals with qualifying conditions and keep cannabis accessible for the people it is intended for.

“We’re not talking about people trying to get a high, we’re looking at people trying to get their lives back,” Tiger said.

Daniel Asarch of Spearfish also advocated for medical cannabis, as he feels it helps people and alleviates the need for opioids.

“I just wanted you to know I believe in the power of cannabis as a medicine,” Asarch said.

Commissioner Randy Deibert said in his mind, this is a pharmaceutical.

“And, therefore, should be treated distinctly from recreational,” Deibert said. “Society and the public seems to blend those two together. But all we’re acting on today is medical.

Flanagan clarified that the ordinance and discussion is strictly for permits for businesses to sell medical use cannabis.

“It has nothing to do with any personal use,” he said. “We’re only dealing with a zoning issue and where a medical cannabis dispensary could be located. Any of the other regulations do not apply.”

Outka said Lawrence County Planning and Zoning will ultimately be charged with promulgating the rules in the county, for example, whether it will be an allowed or conditional use.

Outka clarified the temporary ordinance would only pertain to unincorporated areas of Lawrence County.

“Excluding the municipalities that are in control of their own fates in this regard,” Outka said.

Second reading of the ordinance is scheduled for June 8.

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