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Cops Arresting South Dakota Medical Marijuana Cardholders

Patients of South Dakota's only medical marijuana dispensary are being arrested across the state, despite having cards

Argus Leader

Cops are busting patients of South Dakota’s only medical marijuana dispensary across the state. This is happening despite the patients having tribal-issued cannabis cards, reports the Rapid City Journal.

Cops have arrested more than 100 patients with tribal medical Cannabis cards, according to Flandreau Tribe officials. The arrests happened after the tribe opened South Dakota’s first-ever marijuana store last July.

“They’re taking the cards and handing out fines,” Tribal chairman Tony Reider said. “But most we don’t know about, because most people are just paying the fines.”

Since starting up its medical marijuana program on July 1, 2021, the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe has issued about 8,000 medical marijuana cards to tribal and non-tribal members.

The Highway Patrol won’t arrest patients without a medical cannabis card if they possess less than 3 ounces, according to a July 2021 press release, reports the Argus Leader. But this only applies if the patient has a debilitating medical condition and has documentation from a licensed medical doctor of that condition.

South Dakota AG’s Office Claims Cards Invalid For Non-Tribal Members

Although several county- and city-level law enforcement and state’s attorneys have eased up on arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana, others are not honoring tribal-issued medical cards. This includes Flandreau Police Department.

Even worse, that’s based on a directive from the South Dakota Department of Public Safety and the Attorney General’s Office. They claim tribal cards aren’t valid for non-tribal members.

“If they have a tribally-issued card and they are non-Native American, we seize the card and any of the marijuana products that they would have,” Flandreau Police Chief Zach Weber boasted. Chief Weber proudly noted his agency has arrested 24 medical marijuana patients since the tribe opened its dispensary.

Tribe Honoring Promise To Defend Cardholders

While most of those patient arrests have involved confiscation of products sold at the tribe’s dispensary, Weber said some involved Cannabis not purchased at a store. 

Reider said the South Dakota Highway Patrol is also arresting non-tribal card holders. In a couple circumstances, they even arrested tribal members.

The tribe is honoring a promise made last summer to aid in the defense of their cardholders.

The tribe’s attorney general, Seth Pearman, told lawmakers this week his office is currently engaged in at least 10 active marijuana cases. The cases involve non-tribal members. Pearman is concerned that cards are being seized along with the Cannabis.

“I don’t think the state has the authority to revoke a license issued by another jurisdiction,” he said.

State Attorney’s Office Playing Shutmouth

Neither the Moody County State’s Attorney’s Office or DPS responded to requests for comment.

The tribal medical marijuana program operates independently of the state medical marijuana program. The South Dakota Department of Health began issuing state medical cards last fall. But those are of limited use, as no state-licensed dispensaries, grow facilities or testing sites are in operation.

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