PIERRE, S.D. — A normally clerical legislative committee sent state education officials back to the drawing board on proposed rules for medical cannabis on school campuses after ambiguity emerged over whether a new law's mandate to allow caregivers to administer to student cardholders during school hours related to both public and private schools across the state.

During the Rules Review committee's hearing Monday, June 7, Dell Rapids Republican Rep. Jon Hansen first pressed attorneys for the Department of Education on why their policy encompassed accredited non-public schools, including private institutions.

"I think there's some confusion as to the application of this particular set of rules and whether or not that applies to non-public schools in addition to public schools," Hansen said.

Diane Roy, the education department's general counsel, said the state — as required by the terms of Initiated Measure 26, the voter-approved medical pot law — was to fashion rules for implementing the law "substantively identical" to a similar Colorado medical pot measures as of Jan. 1, 2019.

"Unfortunately, we're limited to the mandated language in Colorado," Roy responded.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Under that law, at the time, Colorado's law covered public schools, including charters, but a subsequent change to that state's law this spring allows for wider access to medical marijuana on public school campuses but expressly stops short of mandating such care on private school campuses.

Lawmakers on the bipartisan committee — tasked with not legislating on policy but rather on the consistency and clarity of the state's laws — agreed with Hansen, who offered motion to revert the rules until they could further drill down what the Colorado law required in 2019.

"Did anyone bother to make a phone call [to Colorado]?" asked Rep. Ryan Cwach, a Yankton Democrat. "Does Colorado require private schools to offer medical cannabis to students attending that school?"

"With their current change to statute, they [Colorado] do not require that for their [private] schools," responded Amanda LaCroix, attorney for the Department of Education.

Roy later said they had not made a phone call but reviewed Colorado's materials.

The committee voted 5-0 in favor of Hansen's motion.

The rules passed the South Dakota Board of Education Standards last month. Just shy of 70% of South Dakotans who participated in the 2020 election approved IM 26, approving medical cannabis statewide.

The proposed rules would require student cardholders — those certified by a physician for use to aid a debilitating medical condition and subsequently deemed eligible by the state's Department of Health — be administered cannabis in a non-smokable form by a designated caregiver during school hours on a campus's premises or school event.

Various legislative committees are scrambling to implement rules before a July 1 effective date. While South Dakota residents, including students, won't be legally able to obtain cards through the state until this fall, some out-of-state students transferring into a South Dakota school could be legally allowed access to medical cannabis during the school day.

Seizures associated with epilepsy is one of the more common medical conditions treated by cannabis in children.