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South Dakota Lawmakers Prepare Dozens Of Cannabis Reform Bills |

Within weeks of the South Dakota Supreme Court’s rejection of a marijuana legalization initiative, the legislature will review more than twenty-three bills in order to overhaul cannabis policy. This new legislative session starts this month.

Media reports claim that at least 38 bills were filed so far by lawmakers for the legislative session which begins next month. At least 22 of them deal with policy related to adult-use or medical marijuana. 

For consideration: Medical Marijuana bills

Most of the bills before the legislature are being drafted in order to implement Initiated Measure 26(IM 26), a referendum measure that legalizes medical marijuana. It was approved by the voters at the November 2020 elections. Rollout of the state’s new medical cannabis program has begun, with the first medical marijuana identification card being issued by the state in November 2021. While local authorities have already begun licensing medical cannabis dispensaries to be licensed, no cultivation licenses have been issued by the state.

IM 26 granted the legislative authority to adopt legislation to make the measure effective. Three meetings were held last summer by the legislative Marijuana Interim Study Committee to discuss draft legislation in order to enact provisions from IM 26. Fred Deutsch (Republican State Representative) said that the legislation made minor changes to the language of the proposed ballot measure.

“I look at all the bills coming through the state Senate as ‘clean up bills,” Deutsch told reporters recently. “They are the result of the summer study, and are pretty much just low-hanging fruit, that is how I think of them. Each of them was approved in large numbers by the committee.)”

Deutsch pointed out, however that the bills proposed by the voters retain the spirit and intent of the approved ballot measure.

“I want to provide voters the opportunity to have the medical marijuana program that they voted for,” Deutsch said. “A robust, medical program.”

Senate Bill 10 is one of these proposals. It requires that medical marijuana patients present their identification to purchase cannabis from dispensaries. Senate Bill 16 changes criminal laws to allow medical marijuana activity legalized by IM26, while Senate Bill 18 updates the rule-making authority regarding medicinal cannabis.  

State Senate files Recreational Marijuana bill

Senate Bill 3 is sponsored by Republican Senator Michael Rohl. This bill legalizes recreational marijuana for adults aged 21 or older. This bill establishes a regulatory system for recreational marijuana production and sales.

“(The bill) is a compromise between eight members of the Senate and sixteen members of the House,” Republican Senator Michael Rohl, the sponsor of the bill, explained. “The bill would modernize our criminal code and instruct the Department of Revenue to prepare for adult-use cannabis sales in South Dakota.”

Matthew Schweich from the Marijuana Policy Project is one of many cannabis advocates. Schweich says it is time to legalize marijuana for recreational use in South Dakota.

“The support we are seeing in the legislature for cannabis reform, which has never been seen before at this level in South Dakota, is a sign that legislators are listening to their constituents,” said Schweich. “They recognize that South Dakota voters are disappointed and angry with the ruling by the state’s Supreme Court on Amendment A.”

The Adult-Use Cannabis Ballot is Measured Down

Amendment A was also approved by voters in November 2020. It is a constitutional amendment that legalizes adult-use cannabis. Kristi Noem, Republican Governor of Kansas, challenged the legality of Amendment A on technical grounds. She supported a lawsuit that would nullify the voter-approved ballot measure.

The South Dakota Supreme Court ruled that Amendment A was invalid. It found the amendment covered multiple legislative subjects, in violation of the state regulations governing ballot-led initiatives. Chief Justice Steven Jensen wrote for the majority that the ballot measure clearly contained “provisions embracing at least three separate subjects, each with distinct objects or purposes.”

After the court’s decision was announced, Noem took to social media to express her support for the ruling.

“South Dakota is a place where the rule of law and our Constitution matter, and that’s what today’s decision on Amendment A is about,” Noem tweetedDecember 24, 2009. “We do things right—and how we do things matters just as much as what we are doing. We are still governed by the rule of law.”

Noem’s views, however, are not in line with those of South Dakota’s voters. A poll conducted in the state last month found that more than half of the voters disapproved of the governor’s handling of cannabis policy, while only 39 percent said they supported her stance.

On Tuesday, January 11, South Dakota legislators will return to Pierre’s state capitol. At noon Central Standard Time, the governor will deliver her annual State of the State Address.