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Medical marijuana patients in South Dakota will not be denied fishing licenses, the official says

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“If they only had a medical cannabis card, one, we wouldn’t check that, but two, it wouldn’t stop them from getting a license.”

By John Holt, South Dakota Spotlight

Sioux Falls attorney Ryan Colbeck doesn’t usually deal with legal questions about hunting licenses.

But a criminal defense attorney made several calls about it in the days after the Nov. 8 election. They started coming soon after it became clear South Dakota voters have voted against legalizing recreational cannabis.

Each question had the same framework: Since federal law prohibits gun ownership by habitual marijuana users — or users of any substance federally classified as “illegal” — would they be able to obtain a medical marijuana card and hunting license in South Dakota?

You have to register in the state [to use medical marijuana]And it’s different than any other drug,” Kolbeck said. “People were wondering if South Dakota could be trusted, basically.”

Colbeck said the callers waited for the election, hoping that winning recreational marijuana would prevent them from applying for a medical marijuana card that would put their names on a state-owned list.

Colbeck said the question was based more on speculation and suspicion by lawmakers than any official guidance, but that such suspicions are not particularly uncommon in states with medical marijuana programs. The issue of hunting licenses pops up in online forums, and gun rights issues permeate state government actions elsewhere.

In Minnesota, concerns about gun permits prompted the introduction of a bill that would have reclassified cannabis to allow medical users to own firearms.

In Oregon, the state’s Board of Pharmacy has reclassified the drug as Schedule 2, in part to smooth the path for firearms permits.

Marijuana activist Matthew Schweich says the issue of hunting license losses, or even loss of gun rights, is a matter of “theory.” Still, Chewish isn’t surprised to hear that the question originated in South Dakota.

“It’s really just a matter of if [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms] Schwish, who helped support the 2020 Medical Marijuana Initiative and the failed 2022 recreational marijuana use measure, said he will try to obtain records from states about medical cannabis and use them to say someone was dishonest with the forms. “At this point, I don’t know what’s going on at all.”

Obtaining a hunting license is different from buying a firearm or obtaining a firearms permit, of course. Different states have different rules on concealed carry permits that are separate from federal rules. Unlike, say, Oregonians, citizens of South Dakota can carry firearms—concealed or otherwise—without a permit.

And in South Dakota, the use of medical cannabis does not preclude a person from obtaining a fishing license.

“If they just had a medical cannabis card, one, we wouldn’t check that, but two, it wouldn’t stop them from getting a license,” said John Kanta, president of Game, Fish and Parks. GF&P division).

However, there are things that can result in someone being denied a hunting license. A person with more than $1,000 in unpaid child support, for example, would be ineligible, and so would the offender.

But Kanta said these divestment issues would only arise if raised by the applicant. There is a series of boxes that the applicant must check to confirm eligibility, with an exhaustive box at the end of the process.

“There is a statement that they agree to to say that they do, in fact, qualify for the license,” Kanta said.

Nobody at GF&P does background checks to ensure the accuracy of the statement. Kanta said marijuana use will not cause problems for a hunter unless a game officer catches someone shooting under the influence or violating hunting laws.

All of this means Kolbeck’s clients are in the clear if they decide to order a medical marijuana card for chronic pain or any other qualifying condition.

Ultimately, however, the mismatch between federal laws on marijuana and state laws allowing medical or recreational use — 38 states have one or both — may remain a source of gun rights concerns, Schwish said. If Congress takes steps to reclassify the drug, those theoretical concerns will evaporate.

“What we really need is federal reform,” Schwish said.

This story was first published by South Dakota Searchlight.

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