PIERRE | Some customers of South Dakota’s only medical marijuana dispensary are being arrested across the state, despite having tribal-issued cannabis cards.
Officials with the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe told the Argus Leader this week that more than 100 people who’ve been issued tribal medical marijuana identification cards have been arrested since the tribe opened South Dakota’s first-ever cannabis store last year.
“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 standing 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. And although several county- and city-level law enforcement agencies and state’s attorneys have eased up on arrests and prosecutions for possession of small amounts of marijuana all together, others, like the Flandreau Police Department are not honoring some tribal-issued medical cards.
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And that’s based on a directive from the South Dakota Department of Public Safety and the Attorney General’s Office, which have taken the position 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 said, noting that 24 marijuana arrests have been made by his agency since the tribe opened its dispensary.
While the majority of those arrests have involved the seizure of products sold at the tribe’s dispensary, Weber noted some involved marijuana not purchased at a store.
Reiter said the Highway Patrol is also arresting non-tribal card holders and in a couple circumstances, tribal members have also been arrested.
And for those being arrested who choose to fight the charge, 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 involving non-tribal members. And that the cards are also being seized along with the marijuana products is a concern, he said.
“I don’t think the state has the authority to revoke a license issued by another jurisdiction,” he said.
Neither the Moody County State’s Attorney’s Office or DPS immediately responded to requests for comment.
The tribal medical marijuana program operates independently of the state medical marijuana program. The Department of Health began issuing state medical cards last fall, though no state-licensed dispensaries, grow facilities or testing sites are in operation.