United States Senator for South Dakota John Thune (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

legalization | 01.01.2022

South Dakota Senate passes bill to regularly drug test their own politicians

Marijuana is completely illegal in the state.

As a resident of Toronto, where our now-infamous former mayor was known for having one too many drinks, let me start by saying that, yes, there are valid reasons you don’t want politicians showing up for work completely trashed. That said, South Dakota’s Legislature may be taking things a bit too far. Narrowly passing, the Legislature voted to enforce routine drug tests on their own lawmakers.

Unprompted by any specific incident, supporters of the bill call it a measure to lead by example.  “I just think it’s the right thing to do,” said Republican Representative Tim Goodwin. “We have the obligation to set the example. If you don’t have anything to hide, why wouldn’t you vote in favor of this bill?”

With this bill, members of the Legislature will have to be subject to regular drug tests. If they refuse or are discovered to have illegal substances in their system, they could be vulnerable to disciplinary action. There will be exceptions made to substances approved by their physicians. However, medical marijuana is not legal in the state of South Dakota (which puts them in the minority of the country these days).  All forms of cannabis are outlawed in South Dakota, and a positive drug test for anyone can be considered a felony offense.

The bill barely passed, and in fact failed on its previous go, so it stands to reason that there have been many who objected to it.

“This is a really cynical approach to the Legislature,” said Republican Representative David Lust. “It’s either based on cynicism or grandstanding, and in either case, it’s wholly inappropriate to bring to this body.”

“I think it’s highly offensive that it’s the assumption that there’s a problem when I truly believe there is not,” said Republican Representative Kris Langer. “I feel like this is a solution looking for a problem.”

With cannabis completely illegal in the state, South Dakota isn’t predicted to be one of the states to join the legalization movement this year. The matter will appear on the ballot in the 2018 elections, after getting just enough signatures to secure a spot.

As for testing, cannabis stays in the system much longer than alcohol because it lingers in fat cells and not the blood. That means any lawmakers who happen to dabble in green are at a serious risk, and when cannabis does start making a sprint in South Dakota, it’s uncertain if it will have much backup in the Legislature.

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