PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — For the second year in a row a bill is passing through the legislature to remove the public records of South Dakotans who receive a one-time marijuana-related offense.
Senate Bill 151A introduced by Senator Michael Rohl (R-Aberdeen) is a stricter version of a bill that failed in the legislature last year. The bill would allow any individual with a stand-alone marijuana offense to have their record removed after 5 years if there are no more subsequent charges in that time. In the 2021 legislative session, a person would only have to wait one year before a record was removed. Rohl told the committee that upping the timeline to 5 years would hopefully appease previous opponents of the bill.
According to Rohl’s testimony, from 2009 through 2018 there were 31,883 South Dakotans who were arrested on marijuana-related charges. Rohl said that 95% of those arrests were for possession and 63% of the arrests were under the age of 25-years-old. He added that 98% of the arrests between 2007 and 2016 for marijuana were stand-alone offenses.
“A criminal record for a petty marijuana offense can have long-lasting negative consequences,” Rohl said.
Because a majority of marijuana offenses occur among a younger population, Rohl said that this could have lifelong impacts on South Dakotans abilities to get jobs, foster or adopt children, or loss of educational aid.
Rohl added that the bill would only clear the public-facing records relating to marijuana offenses. A court, or division of criminal investigation, would still have access to those records. “We’re putting a noose around these people’s necks, and never taking it off.”
Lawyers and marijuana lobbyists spoke in support of Rohl’s bill saying the legislation made sense and would help people with one marijuana charge reenter society by removing barriers.
Paul Bachand with the South Dakota States Attorneys Association called the bill a “get out of jail free card” for marijuana offenders and urged the committee to oppose the bill. Bridget Coppersmith with the Department of Corrections also spoke against the bill. Coppersmith said that recreational marijuana use is still illegal in South Dakota as well as on a federal level and marijuana offenses should appear on background checks.
“Employers, landlords, and the public deserve to have all information about convictions for illegal acts,” Coppersmith told the committee.
After debate between both sides, Senator David Wheeler (R-Huron) moved to due pass SB 151A to the Senate floor. The bill passed 4-2, with one vote excused.