SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The full South Dakota Senate will discuss whether recreational use of marijuana by adults over 21 should be legal.
Senate Bill 3, called “an act to provide for the use and regulated sale of marijuana,” passed the Senate Commerce and Energy Committee 5-3. The bill contains 48 sections in 30 pages to regulate marijuana in the state and came with support from lawmakers on the Marijuana Interim Study Committee.
Sen. Michael Rohl (R-Aberdeen) brought an amendment to change the legal amount from four ounces of marijuana to only two ounces.
Much of the discussion focused on a future ballot measure about legalizing marijuana coming on the November ballot and keeping lawmakers in charge of the process of legalizing pot.
Early in his opening testimony, Rohl highlighted a ballot measure coming to legalize marijuana in response to the state Supreme Court striking down Amendment A. According to the Secretary of State’s office, petitions are circulating for a 2022 ballot question for an initiated measure legalizing the possession, use and distribution of marijuana.
Rohl, who said he believes the ballot measure would pass in November, said the major difference between the ballot measure and SB 3 is the latter wouldn’t allow home grown marijuana in any capacity. He also said he’s confident the ballot measure would pass leaving lawmakers in the position of reacting to the laws set in the measure.
After proponent and opponent testimony, Sen. Larry Zikmund (R-Sioux Falls) said the legislation should be supported and discussed by the full Senate floor. He pointed to the time spent by the study committee on the issue and added he’s against marijuana but he called it a tough issue.
Sen. Jim Stalzer (R-Sioux Falls) said he’s seen the devastation of legal marijuana in Colorado visiting family. He said he doesn’t want South Dakota to have the same problems as Colorado.
Sen. David Wheeler (R-Huron) said SB 3 keeps lawmakers in control of this issue. He said he’s for freedom and personal responsibility and that is what SB 3 is about.
Sen. Red Dawn Foster (D-Pine Ridge) said she supported SB 3 for the decriminalization aspect. She added she believes the ballot measure would pass with voters and lawmakers should stay in front of the issue.
Opponent testimony included the South Dakota State’s Attorneys Association, the South Dakota Sheriffs’ Association, the South Dakota Police Chiefs Association and the South Dakota State Medical Association.
Sen. Wayne Steinhauer (R-Hartford) asked a lobbyist with the state’s attorneys association about choosing either SB 3 or the ballot measure.
Paul Bachand answered state’s attorneys would like to see neither.
Lobbyists with the police chiefs and medical association talked about unintended consequences from SB 3.
Sen. Foster asked specifically about the number of arrests for marijuana. Bachand said he didn’t have arrest amount numbers but noted after Amendment A passed state’s attorneys had many discussions about how to prosecute minimal marijuana amounts.
The South Dakota Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers spoke in favor of SB 3 along with two lobbyists with cannabis associations.
Cannabis Industry Association of SD lobbyist Jeremiah Murphy called SB 3 “a balanced approach”
Cannabis Industry Association of South Dakota lobbyist Jeremiah Murphy said a lot of discussion was put into SB 3 and he called it a balanced approach.
Murphy said marijuana is already being used in South Dakota and cited a study from 2017-2019, where 11% of people in South Dakota said they use marijuana.
Noem says she doesn’t support legal marijuana
When asked about future marijuana legislation by a reporter, Gov. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) said she’s always supported medical marijuana and doesn’t support recreational marijuana.
“That’s a debate the people in South Dakota are having,” Noem said about recreational marijuana.
Noem said she’ll look at whatever legislation comes in front of her, but suggested marijuana may already be legal in the state via medical marijuana on Indian reservations.
“From what I understand of what is going on in some of our tribal lands, people can walk into a casino or facilities and purchase a prescription from a doctor and get in line and get marijuana,” Noem said. “I wanted our medical program to look very different than what it does today.”
Asked specifically if she believes a legal marijuana ballot measure would pass in November, Noem said she wasn’t sure.
“I think that the more people are learning about marijuana and seeing it in our communities, they’ll make that determination,” Noem said.