A South Dakota Senate committee has rejected a House-passed bill to require medical marijuana dispensaries to post notices at their businesses warning patients about the federal gun ban for cannabis consumers—though members also approved a revised version of separate legislation to mandate that patients check off a box on their medical cannabis card applications to affirm they’re aware of the firearms rule.
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee took up three pieces of cannabis legislation during a hearing on Wednesday. The third bill—which would have added restrictions to ensure doctors have a bone fide relationship with patients before recommending medical marijuana— was also defeated by the panel.
The House advanced both gun-related cannabis measures earlier this month, but the committee only passed a dialed-back version of the less controversial proposal that would now make it so medical marijuana applications would need to feature a checkbox advising people that their use of cannabis under state law still means they are ineligible to buy or possess guns under federal statute that is being challenged in a number of courts across the country.
As passed by the House before being amended in committee, it would have required the patient to sign their name to confirm they’re aware of the federal rule. The vote on the revised version was unanimous, 7-0.
The other firearm and marijuana measure that the panel defeated would have required that notices of the federal statute be posted at dispensary entrances and each register or point of sale. It has proved contentious along is brief legislative journey, with some industry stakeholders arguing that it imposes an unnecessary burden on the businesses.
Dispensaries would have been fined $250 per day of non-compliance with the law. Sen. Michael Rohl (R), who owns a bar, testified at the hearing that the legislation was anti-business, KMIT reported.
Members first adopted mostly technical amendments to the bill, but the revised version was ultimately rejected in a narrow 3-4 vote.
Under the bill, the sign that South Dakota medical cannabis dispensaries would have needed to post would read:
“WARNING: Federal law prohibits the possession of a firearm by certain individuals who are users of or addicted to marijuana. See 18 U.S.C. § 922(g).”
Meanwhile, the committee also defeated a proposal to modify the rules for doctors to issue medical cannabis recommendations by mandating that there must be a “bona fide practitioner-patient relationship” prior to receiving the authorization.
In order to establish that there is such a relationship, the recommendation would have needed to come from the patient’s primary care provider who was specifically treating the condition for which medical cannabis would be used, or a practitioner to whom the patient’s primary care doctor referred them. Practitioners who issued cannabis recommendations without meeting those requirements would have been subject to a “civil penalty” or “disciplinary action.”
With respect to the marijuana and firearms issue, the federal Justice Department has insisted on the necessity of the banning cannabis consumers for possessing guns in numerous federal courts, arguing at points that people who use marijuana pose a unique danger, akin to permitting people with serious mental illness to own firearms.
The question over the constitutionality of the federal gun ban for people who use marijuana is now before the U.S. Supreme Court, which is considering taking up the issue.
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Justices are expected to decide whether they will hear a federal government appeal of a circuit court ruling that found the firearm restriction violates the Second Amendment.
The ruling came from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which examined the federal statute known as Section 922(g)(3) that prevents someone who is an “unlawful user” of an illegal drug from buying or possessing firearms. The circuit court found the policy unconstitutional as applied to a man who faced a conviction after admitting to having used cannabis while in possession of a gun.
Meanwhile, a Pennsylvania district attorney and gun rights advocates filed a lawsuit in federal court this week, seeking to overturn the ban preventing medical marijuana patients from buying and possessing firearms.
While people who use cannabis are barred from owning firearms under the statute, a little-notice FBI memo from 2019 that recently surfaced shows that the federal government generally does not consider it a violation of the law for medical cannabis caregivers and growers to have guns.
Republican congressional lawmakers have filed two bills in the first half of this current two-year session that focus on gun and marijuana policy.
Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL), co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, filed legislation in May to protect the Second Amendment rights of people who use marijuana in legal states, allowing them to purchase and possess firearms that they’re currently prohibited from having under federal law.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has committed to attaching that legislation to a bipartisan marijuana banking bill that advanced out of committee in September.
Meanwhile, Mast is also cosponsoring a separate bill from Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV) this session that would more narrowly allow medical cannabis patients to purchase and possess firearms.
Back in South Dakota, officials recently cleared the way for paid circulators to start collecting signatures for a 2024 marijuana legalization ballot initiative as the activist-led campaign continues to evaluate next steps.