I live in one of the most progressive states in the country when it comes to marijuana laws. Oregon, where I live, voted to legalize marijuana in 2014 for adults over 21 years old. I can posses up to 8 ounces at my house, 1 ounce in transit, and cultivate four plants at my residence. I am a medical marijuana patient as well, so I have additional freedoms. I wish that people around the country experienced the same freedoms that I do. But, sadly, that’s not the case.
There are some very harsh laws on the books in the United States still. Yes, 8 states have voted to legalize marijuana (and D.C.), but that means 42 haven’t. In South Dakota, simply having marijuana in your system is enough to get you in trouble. And not just a slap on the wrist. Below is South Dakota statute 22-42-5.1:
“Unauthorized ingestion of controlled drug or substance as felony. No person may knowingly ingest a controlled drug or substance or have a controlled drug or substance in an altered state in the body unless the substance was obtained directly or pursuant to a valid prescription or order from a practitioner, while acting in the course of the practitioner’s professional practice or except as otherwise authorized by chapter 34-20B. A violation of this section for a substance in Schedules I or II is a Class 5 felony. A violation of this section for a substance in Schedules III or IV is a Class 6 felony.”
I can walk to my local dispensary right now and purchase quite a few edibles and consume them and it’s 100% legal. The THC from the buffet of edibles will stay in my system for several weeks, potentially up to 100 days according to one study. If I get caught in South Dakota in that window, I could be looking at a felony charge, even though the marijuana is long gone and the effects of the marijuana have long since worn off. The same could potentially be true for anyone who consumes marijuana and is caught within the borders of the State of South Dakota.
That type of law, which has been on the books since 2001, is inhumane and is a breeding ground for biased enforcement. Fortunately there is a bill that was recently introduced that would get rid of the law Per Rapid City Journal:
South Dakota lawmakers introduced a bill last week that would no longer make it illegal for someone to have marijuana in their system.
Senate Bill 129 has 17 sponsors from both Republicans and Democrats. State Rep. David Lust, R-Rapid City, is the prime sponsor in the House and state Sen. Justin Cronin, R-Gettysburg, is the prime sponsor in the Senate.
Lust said the bill is not done and amendments will be added, but the intent of the bill is to repeal the state’s possession-by-ingestion law for marijuana. Physical possession of the drug would remain illegal as would ingestion of other illegal drugs. He sees the measure as a law enforcement bill that could save the state money and would put South Dakota’s policies in line with those of the rest of the nation.
South Dakota is the only state in the country that considers having marijuana in a person’s system to be a felony offense. Per the cited article, Utah has a similar law, but the offense is treated as a misdemeanor. Hopefully a bill gets introduced in Utah soon to get rid of their law as well. Having marijuana in a person’s system does not pose any harm to anyone. With more and more states permitting marijuana consumption, and people being able to freely travel to those states, these possession by ingestion laws are ridiculous.