Here’s What’s Happening In South Dakota Legal Cannabis 2021

By Daniel Asarch

South Dakota has always had a special place in my heart.  I have family and friends that make it a 2nd home.  In addition to running my hemp company, Happy Hemp Pharm, I have spent considerable energy as a cannabis pharmacist and activist working helping to establish the South Dakota cannabis industry.   I have great ambitions and hope they come to fruition.  Like South Dakota, I feel that being an underdog pushes people to their greatness and allows their impactful soul to shine thru.  Cannabis is not a gateway drug it’s an exit drug. 

Will 2021 be the year of cannabis? That is the million dollar question.  So far it’s shaping up to be that way.  The cannabis industry seems to be giving the technology industry a run for its money.  Picking up momentum from last year’s 2020 election we saw forms of legalization occur in Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and my home state of South Dakota.  So far in 2021, 4 more states including Georgia, New Mexico, New Jersey, and New York have kept the momentum going with a few more potential states on the horizon. 

Out of all these ‘legal states,’ one state stands out as the underdog: South Dakota.  South Dakota has tried to legalize medical marijuana three times, beginning in 2016.  The first 2016 medical marijuana initiative was defeated.  In 2018, the revised medical marijuana initiative did not even make the ballot, failing to meet the requisite signatures.  Finally in 2o20, the third time was a charm! Not only did the medical marijuana IM 26 initiative pass but recreational Amendment A passed as well.  South Dakota was the first state in history to have the opportunity to vote on medical and recreational marijuana on the same ballot.  


However, this historic moment did not go over well with sitting Governor Kristi Noem.  Kristi Noem has been a long time opponent against cannabis in any of its legal forms.   As soon as she could, she indirectly had Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom and South Dakota Highway Patrol Col. Rick Miller file a lawsuit on behalf of the state.  The lawsuit that was brought forward argues that it violates the state’s one subject rule and the amendments and revisions article of the South Dakota constitution.  This lawsuit did not go over well with the citizens of South Dakota.  Not only was Governor Noem using taxpayer money to participate in the lawsuit but also in doing so pretty much gave the people of South Dakota the middle finger.  The people of South Dakota know what they voted for on the ballot.  Both medical and recreational cannabis received more votes separately and together than Governor Kristi Noem when she was elected.  Cannabis is a bipartisan issue not a partisan one.

   Besides enacting a lawsuit against Amendment A, Governor Noem tried to dismantle IM 26.   IM 26 was written concisely with the patient in mind by Melissa Mentele.  Melissa Mentele, who has a background in nursing as well as a chronic debilitating disorder, has been working on getting medical cannabis passed in South Dakota for the last 6 years.  She started this fight in 2015 by creating New Approach South Dakota (NASD), a  cannabis patient advocacy group.  With the help of NASD, volunteers over the years have been educating the public and collecting signatures for the various ballot measures.  To help the ballot measures succeed last year another group joined the fight: South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws. 

After successfully helping both measures pass, both groups took up the challenge of continuing the fight against Governor Kristi Noem and most of the South Dakota legislative representatives.  In February, Amendment A was handed a lower circuit court loss by a Gov. Noem appointed judge.  However, it was appealed and sent up to the South Dakota Supreme Court for a final ruling at a later time.  During the same month in legislative session IM 26 appeared to be on the chopping block.   Noem and some of the SD legislature representatives wanted to delay and dismantle IM 26.  With the help of fellow South Dakotans all over the state, many emails and phone calls were made to legislators expressing their discontent of their votes not being respected.  In the end , the legislature decided to uphold the people’s vote on IM 26.  Now that the legislative issue of IM 26 was laid to rest, focus could be turned back over to the Amendment A lawsuit.  Running low on court funds, a great group of individuals created and championed a 2 day charity concert, Freedom we’re on it.   Tons of local musicians, advocates, and comedians participated along with local businesses supporting with donations for an auction.  South Dakotans care about one another and have a lot of pride for their state.

Medical marijuana starts July 1st barring no other surprises.  If the judgement for Amendment A gets upheld, then South Dakota could see a recreational market here real soon, but technically the state has until next year to implement it.  If Amendment A fails, then the challenge to get it on the ballot for 2022 begins.  The people of South Dakota and the rest of the US are anxiously waiting the decision. 

How I Became A Cannabis Pharmacist & Entrepreneur

By Daniel Asarch

Growing up in the 1980s, I was a child of the D.A.R.E program.  Everyday I would be inundated with this is your brain on drugs commercials as well as other anti-cannabis propaganda.  The stoner stigma and  government scare tactics worked for numerous years, but I finally gave into trying cannabis for the first time in college.  After trying it, I didn’t see what the big fuss about cannabis was as it didn’t do much for me except give me the munchies. As the years went by I used cannabis sporadically for recreational purposes and yet still didn’t have much knowledge about the plant.  Even when I attended pharmacy school in the early 2000s, the only two things I learned was cannabis existed as marijuana and Marinol, a synthetic thc pharmaceutical.

Working as a pharmacist I had patients on Marinol to help stimulate their appetites as they were either burdened with HIV or a form of cancer.   All of my patients preferred cannabis over Marinol.  They complained that Marinol had unpleasant side effects and that it didn’t help much with appetite stimulation.  However, my patients were stuck between a rock and hard place as medical marijuana was allowed but at the same time it couldn’t be legally bought anywhere at the time.  Outside of the need for appetite stimulation, some of my HIV and cancer patients were also on opioids or opioid related medications to help control their chronic pain.

In my 17 years of being a pharmacist, one of the hardest things to watch is people becoming addicted to opioids to help manage their chronic pain.  I probably have dispensed thousands of pain pills to patients.  All of them had legitimate scripts, but I’m also sure there may have been a few scrupulous patients that may have slipped through.  Opioid addiction takes a toll on the   mind and body as well as the patient’s surrounding environment.  In recent years, opioid overdoses have been on the rise and devastating lives.


You may wonder what the point of my story is so far, well I am about to tell you.  I have pledged to do no harm as a pharmacist and help as many people as I can.  Growing up, like most people I was taught to think inside of the box and that most things are black and white not grey.   Given my life experiences of childhood, college, pharmacy school, and working with patients I can tell you bluntly that’s all a lie.  I started to think outside of the box when I began working as a compounding pharmacist.  Compounding pharmacy allows to work outside the confines of big Pharma and the FDA to some extent.  It is here that I learned that hormones and vitamin supplements do play a part in some of our body functions.  Not all illnesses, disorders, and dysfunctions need a big Pharma medication to fix them.

This is where the pursuit of my cannabis knowledge started.

Even though Cannabis has been around and used for over thousands and thousands of years, we actually have very minimal FDA research on this wonderful plant.  However, we do have peer to peer research and personal use benefits documented by a great world wide population.  Cannabis knowledge can be found all over whether it’s in books, the internet, and via speakers on the topic.  Is it all factual? The majority of the information out there is factual, but the rest is based on myths and reefer madness.  There are at least 2 books that I can recommend: Cannabis Pharmacy and The Cannabis Health Index.  After reading these 2 books, I felt to have a better understanding of how cannabis affects the body.  Also,  I learned about the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) which plays an important in our body’s homeostasis.  Unfortunately, the ECS is only lightly touched on in medical school, pharmacy school, and even nursing school.   Hopefully,  as time goes on the healthcare system will realize the potential of Cannabis as a true medicine.

Over the last 3 years,  I have tried to etch my path in the cannabis industry.  I started my journey out as an associate publisher for Sensi Magazine, a lifestyle magazine with a cannabis touch originally based out of Colorado.  I helped to establish the Las Vegas market.  During my time with Sensi, I had the opportunity to network with many leaders in the cannabis industry as well as watch the cannabis scene mature in Las Vegas.   After being immersed in the cannabis scene for quite a while I decided that it was my time to take my cannabis journey to the next level.

In 2018, the USDA passed the farm bill to allow for the further legalization of industrial hemp.  I saw this as opportunity to start my own business in cannabis under this new provision and see where the road took me.  In late 2019, I opened Happy Hemp Pharm.  Happy Hemp Pharm is a small boutique business than prides itself on handcrafted and quality products.

Unfortunately as you all know Covid hit 2020 and slowed all the events down to complete halt.  Luckily, it allowed more time for product development and placement.  However, the only place that didn’t shut down during the pandemic was social media.  You would think with legalization happening throughout the states and parts of the world it would be easy to navigate the social media waters, that is truly not the case. Since cannabis is still federally classified as a class 1 controlled substance Facebook and Instagram are still quite discriminating towards cannabis related posts.

As we are already almost a quarter way done with 2021, I plan to continue to steadily grow and adapt my business to the ever changing cannabis/hemp industry.

Stay tuned to these pages …

EDITOR’S NOTE: Daniel Asarch will be a featured speaker and panelist at the upcoming G4 Live Budtender Awards.

South Dakota Governor Noem and Legislative Leaders Announce Plan for Implementation of IM 26

SOUTH DAKOTA:  Governor Kristi Noem and leadership in both chambers of the South Dakota state legislature announced a plan to implement Initiated Measure 26 (IM 26).

“We are working diligently to get IM 26 implemented safely and correctly,” said Governor Kristi Noem. “The feasibility of getting this program up and running well will take additional time. I am thankful to our legislative leaders for helping make sure that we do this right.”

The plan would add a year of additional flexibility on the implementation timeline and create an interim committee to meet and recommend solutions before next legislative session.

The state of South Dakota has consulted with industry experts Cannabis Public Policy Consulting (CPPC). CPPC has not seen a successful implementation of a medicinal marijuana program in just 8 months, the timeframe IM 26 currently requires. Some states take more than two years for successful implementation. To address this, the implementation plan adds additional flexibility to the timeline. This will allow the State of South Dakota to address several policy concerns and additional rules regarding IM 26.

“Our Senate leadership fully supports the effort to properly implement a workable medical marijuana program,” said Senate Majority Leader Gary Cammack. “We will honor the voters’ wishes.”

Furthermore, CPPC advises that no state in the country has ever implemented both a medicinal and a recreational marijuana program simultaneously. While the circuit court has ruled that Amendment A is unconstitutional, the state is still anticipating that the Supreme Court will have the opportunity to weigh in on this constitutional matter.

“There is no doubt that IM 26 passed in South Dakota, and it is fully our intention to honor the will of the voters,” said House Majority Leader Kent Peterson. “Based upon the experiences of other states, we know that it takes time to start implementing a safe and workable program. We will get the job done.”

HB 1100 was amended to be the vehicle for the plan’s passage. You can read CPPC’s guidance to the state on the implementation timeline here.

Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, And South Dakota Legalize Marijuana

Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota Legalize Marijuana 

Voters in Mississippi and South Dakota Approve Medical Marijuana Ballot Initiatives

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota have legalized marijuana for adults 21 and older, as voters in each state approved their respective ballot initiatives at the ballot box. South Dakota also passed a medical marijuana initiative and became the first state in American history to enact both policies on the same day. The Marijuana Policy Project was instrumental in the Montana and South Dakota campaigns.

“This historic set of victories will place even greater pressure on Congress to address the glaring and untenable conflicts between state and federal laws when it comes to cannabis legalization,” said Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, which was founded in 1995 and has played a central role in 10 state-level legalization victories over the past eight years.

“From the Badlands to the Jersey Shore, and from the Grand Canyon to Big Sky Country, Americans across the country have embraced the idea that marijuana legalization is the policy decision that best serves the interests of public health, public safety, and, most importantly, justice,” said Matthew Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project and one of the leaders of the Montana and South Dakota campaigns.

  • Arizona passed its ballot initiative, Proposition 207.
  • New Jersey passed its legislatively referred initiative, Public Question 1.
  • Montana passed complementary initiatives, Constitutional Initiative 118 and Initiative 190.
  • South Dakota passed its legalization initiative, Amendment A, and its medical marijuana initiative, Measure 26.
  • Mississippi passed its medical marijuana initiative, Amendment 65.

“With the passage of these initiatives, one-third of the population now lives in jurisdictions that have legalized cannabis for adult use, and 70% of all states have embraced cannabis for medical use. The federal government is out of step with a clear national trend toward legalization,” said Hawkins. “We can put an end to the social injustices and other harms that result from the criminalization of marijuana. While cannabis legalization is not the cure-all to end the war on drugs, it is a necessary step and would provide an opportunity for many long-oppressed communities to finally have a chance to heal.”

“Regardless of who controls the White House, the House, and the Senate, we should demand landmark federal marijuana reform in 2021,” added Hawkins. “This is not a partisan issue. And with more Republican Senators representing states with medical marijuana and legal marijuana for adults, we’re hopeful that marijuana reform can serve as an opportunity for bipartisan cooperation. It’s also worth noting that the victory in New Jersey has the potential to accelerate reform efforts in neighboring states.”

Heading into Election Day, 11 states had legalized marijuana for adults 21 and over, and 34 states had legalized medical marijuana. Now, there are 15 legalization states and 36 medical marijuana states in the country.

USDA Approves Hemp Production Plans For Indiana, Michigan, New Mexico And South Dakota

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced the approval of hemp production plans under the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program for Indiana, Michigan, New Mexico and South Dakota, bringing the total number of approved plans to 69.

USDA continues to receive and review hemp production plans from states and Indian tribes. To review approved plans or check the status of a plan, visit the Status of State and Tribal Hemp Production Plans webpage.

State and tribal plans previously approved include:

States Tribes
Delaware Blackfeet Nation
Florida Cayuga Nation
Georgia Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes
Illinois Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe
Iowa Chippewa Cree Tribe
Kansas Colorado River Indian Tribes
Louisiana Comanche Nation
Maine Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs
Maryland Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians
Massachusetts Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe
Minnesota Fort Belknap Indian Community
Missouri Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska
Montana Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians
Nebraska La Jolla Band of Luiseno Indian Tribes
New Jersey Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians
Ohio Lower Sioux Indian Community
Oklahoma Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida
Pennsylvania Oglala Sioux Tribe
South Carolina Otoe-Missouria Tribe
Tennessee Pala Band of Mission Indians
Texas Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma
Utah Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation
Washington Pueblo of Picuris Tribe
West Virginia Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians
Wyoming Rosebud Sioux Tribe
Puerto Rico Sac & Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa
U.S. Virgin Islands San Carlos Apache Tribe of Arizona
Santa Rosa Cahuilla Indian Tribe
Santee Sioux Nation
Seminole Nation of Oklahoma
Seneca Nation of Indians
Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Tribe
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians
Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians
Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska
Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo
Yurok Tribe

The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill) directed USDA to develop a regulatory oversight program for hemp and include provisions for USDA to approve hemp production plans submitted by states and Indian tribes. Accordingly, on Oct. 31, 2019, USDA issued an interim final rule establishing the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program and the provisions for USDA to approve submitted plans. State and tribal plans provide details on practices and procedures that enable hemp producers in their jurisdictions to operate according to their individual plans and in compliance with federal laws.

For additional information about the program, visit the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program webpage.

South Dakota Department Of Agriculture Submits Hemp Plan To United States Department Of Agriculture

SOUTH DAKOTA: The South Dakota Department of Agriculture (SDDA) submitted its plan to regulate industrial hemp in South Dakota to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for final approval.

“I am looking forward to working with industrial hemp producers and processors in South Dakota,” says Derek Schiefelbein, SDDA Industrial Hemp Program Manager. “The SDDA will continue to develop the program while waiting for approval from the USDA. Processors and growers can look for more information for how to apply in the near future.”

The industrial hemp legislation was passed by the South Dakota legislature in 2020 authorizing the SDDA to create a program to regulate the cultivation and processing of industrial hemp. The SDDA has been working to establish the industrial hemp program to support this new industry in the state.

Agriculture is a major contributor to South Dakota’s economy, generating $32.5 billion in annual economic activity and employing over 132,000 South Dakotans. The South Dakota Department of Agriculture’s mission is to promote, protect, and preserve South Dakota agriculture for today and tomorrow. Visit us online at or find us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

South Dakota Governor Noem Encourages Legislators To Table Industrial Hemp Discussions

SOUTH DAKOTA: Governor Kristi Noem asked the South Dakota legislature to table discussions on legalizing industrial hemp this legislative session.

“South Dakota is not ready for industrial hemp production,” said Noem. “There are still questions about the impact on public safety, enforcement, and costs to the taxpayers. We need to see federal guidelines when they are issued and then decide if this commodity is as promising as they say it will be.”

In December 2018, then-Congresswoman Noem voted in favor of the 2018 Farm Bill, a small section of which loosened regulations on industrial hemp. The crop is not currently authorized for growth in South Dakota under any state or federal program. The South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Governor Noem have discouraged producers from making plans to grow industrial hemp in the 2019 growing season.

Marijuana Legalization Could Come To These 12 States This Year

By Eric Weisbrot

Despite strong efforts to maintain the criminalization of marijuana use in the United States, many individuals and lawmakers have taken a step in the direction of legalization over the last several years. Currently, there are 29 states that allow for medical marijuana use, under particular limitations, and a smaller percentage that give residents the ability to use marijuana on a recreational basis under state law. The federal government has been slow to end prohibition of the drug, but recent research shows growing support for legalization on a state level for many reasons.

One of the strongest components of marijuana legalization support revolves around the well-documented success of states that have eliminated prohibition for residents. The states that allow for recreational use of marijuana have systems in place to ensure the tax revenue and economic growth is regulated, mostly through the use of bonding and licensing requirements for dispensaries, growers, and distributors. Based on the positive outcomes legalized states have generated, there are 12 more states considering legalizing marijuana use on some level in 2018.

Michigan: In the state of Michigan, there is a current initiative to gather the 250,000 signatures needed to include a marijuana legalization bill on the ballot in the 2018 election cycle. If approved, the bill would allow for recreational use of the drug for those over the age of 21 who are also residents of the state.

Delaware: In late 2017, a legislative task force was formed in order to analyze the impact marijuana use has on state residents from a recreational standpoint. A bill was shot down in 2017, but the hope is that an opportunity remains in 2018 after the findings of the task force are made public.

New Jersey: With a Democratic-led legislature, New Jersey is poised to legalize the use of marijuana for recreational purposes in 2018. A skyrocketing criminal justice cost along with proven racial injustices in the state are the prime motivators behind passing such legislation this year.

Vermont: A bill legalizing the recreational use of marijuana was approved in Vermont in May 2017, but it was vetoed by the governor at the time. A commission tasked with studying the issues surrounding recreational marijuana use, including health concerns and driving impairment statistics, was created at that time. Based on the results of the commission’s work, legislation is set to pass in Vermont in 2018 allowing adults over the age of 21 to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and cultivation of two mature plants.

Oklahoma: During either the June or November elections, Oklahoma is set to add a bill to the ballot for medical marijuana use legalization for state residents.

Ohio: Lawmakers in Ohio failed to get a bill passed to legalize recreational marijuana use in the last three years, but a ballot proposal is intended to be included during the midterm election cycle this year.

Connecticut: Thanks to local efforts from lawmakers in Harford, Connecticut legislature is set to include a statewide ballot vote for recreational marijuana legalization in November 2018.

Rhode Island: After forming a legislative commission in 2017, Rhode Island may be one of the next states to legalize recreational marijuana use in 2018. The commission sought to research the impacts of the drug on its community, based on neighboring studies in Massachusetts and Maine.

Kentucky: A bill for the legalization of medical marijuana may be on the docket in 2018 for residents of Kentucky. Although there is little support from the current governor, advocates for the drug’s medical use may beat the odds during the midterm election cycle.

Utah: Medical marijuana may be legalized in Utah, following in the footsteps of several other states nearby. The ballot for the midterm elections should include a bill for Utah voters to weigh in on in 2018.

South Dakota: South Dakota may also be close to legalizing medical marijuana, as signatures are currently being gathered for a ballot initiative slated for 2018 election inclusion.

Missouri: Similar to South Dakota, signatures are currently being collected for a medical marijuana bill in Missouri which would allow voters to make the decision in this election cycle.

Eric Weisbrot is the Chief Marketing Officer of JW Surety Bonds. With years of experience in the surety industry under several different roles within the company, he is also a contributing author to the surety bond blog.  

Flandreau Sioux Put Marijuana Resort On Hold

SOUTH DAKOTA: The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe is temporarily suspending its marijuana cultivation and distributing facilities and is destroying its existing crop as leaders seek clarification on regulations from the federal government, according to the tribe’s lawyer.

Seth Pearman said the suspension is pivotal to the continued success of the marijuana venture and that tribal leadership is confident that after getting clarification from theU.S. Department of Justice, “it will be better suited to succeed.”

“The tribe will continue to consult with the federal and state government and hopes to be granted parity with states that have legalized marijuana,” Pearman said in the news release.


‘Marijuana Resort’ Budding In South Dakota, Set To Open By Year’s End

SOUTH DAKOTA: The marijuana plants are already growing in a remodeled building on the Flandreau Santee Sioux reservation as the southeast South Dakota tribe shoots for a New Year’s Eve opening for its first-of-its-kind resort.

The state-of-the-art marijuana growing operation with its 65 strains of plants is in its infancy as finishing touches are being put on the building where it will take about 14 weeks to grow about 80 pounds of pot. That’s how much the tribe hopes to sell weekly at its smoking lounge and entertainment resort just south of their casino that is noting its 25th year of operation this month.

The resort has been about a year in the making, as the tribal council which leads the tribe of 280 adults and 110 children on the reservation voted 5-1 late last year to pursue the resort idea.

Interest in the operation has certainly been high, and president Tony Reider said other tribes across the nation are closely watching, as it will be the first-ever marijuana resort on a reservation.