SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — On Monday, January 24, the South Dakota House of Representatives advanced a piece of legislation which seeks to ban the home cultivation of medical marijuana.
HB 1004, introduced by Rep. Fred Deutsch (R-Florence) essentially seeks to remove all language allowing home cultivation of medical marijuana from the text of IM-26, now South Dakota law 34-20G, which was passed by the voters of the state in November 2020, legalizing medical marijuana.
Melissa Mentele is the Executive Director of New Approach South Dakota, a cannabis reform organization, and the author of IM-26. She takes issue with Deutsch and the legislature attempting to make changes to a law the voters have already approved.
“My concern is, we’re already out the gate with it,” she said. “There’s already patients out there that are card holders that have been approved for home cultivation. It’s going to be really hard to put that cow back in the barn. We’ve already started.”
Another issue that Mentele cites with the legislation is that it circumvents what she sees as the proper approach to address potential issues with the law.
“There was an interim committee put forth by IM-16 — the IM-26 Medical Marijuana Oversight Committee — that is supposed to meet to recommend rule changes to the legislature,” explained Mentele. “We have not met yet.”
Mentele says she and the other members of the committee were all appointed by the state in 2021. “Now they’re trying to change things again before we’ve ever met.”
Another person who takes issue with HB 1004 is Ned Horsted, Executive Director of the Cannabis Industry Association of South Dakota, a cannabis industry stakeholder group.
“This would take what the voters asked for in 2020 by 7 in 10 people, and completely remove home grow,” said Horsted. “We’ve heard arguments from certain members of the legislature that say that voters did not know this was in it.”
Horsted says that argument is insulting.
“It was printed on top of the ballot,” said Horsted. “It’s insulting for a politician to insinuate that voters don’t know how to read. It was right at the top of the ballot in the Attorney General’s explanation.”
Mentele also seemed to find the notion that voters were naïve to be insulting.
“I think that Fred Deutsch does not respect the vote of the people,” she said. “He has proven it over and over and over again — I think that he is nannying the voters of our state. We voted. I don’t need Fred Deutsch to tell me I didn’t know how I voted — we know what we voted for.”
Another argument against allowing home cultivation came from Rep. Rhonda Milstead (R-Hartford) who suggested that allowing home cultivation would bring cartels to the state of South Dakota.
Horsted calls this idea bizarre. “The people that benefit from very restrictive laws relative to the industry are typically the black market,” he said.
On a personal level, Mentele is frustrated to see legislators picking apart aspects of IM-26. Beyond that, she points to the real strain this can put on patients who are already cultivating their own plants.
“These patients, we would that they would be grandfathered in,” said Mentele, discussing what would happen if HB 1004 were to be signed into law. “I think the state, if it decides to pass this bill, should reimburse patients for their expenses, because putting together home cultivation is not cheap.”
Mentele herself is a patient cardholder undertaking home cultivation. She says that while prices can vary, her own setup has cost about $2,000 so far. “Is Fred Deutsch going to write me a check for that,” she asked?
Mentele says that New Approach SD is not just sitting and waiting for this bill to pass. “We’re gonna work on it before it goes to the Senate. The goal is to get rid of it before it passes, so what we’re going to do is advocate for our patients, and ask our patients to advocate for themselves by contacting their legislators now before we vote on it.”
Staying engaged in the process is something that Mentele stressed the importance of. “I’ve heard that we have about 50 bills that are going to out dealing with cannabis throughout the session; people need to be engaged. Home cultivation is only one piece that they’re trying to take away. There’s other pieces too.”