Senate leader says ‘highly unlikely’ recreational marijuana passes legislature

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota voters shouldn’t have high hopes on recreational marijuana going into law during the 2022 legislative session. 

That’s according to Senate president pro tem Lee Schoenbeck (R-Watertown). 

“I think it’s highly unlikely that the legislature passes recreational marijuana,” Schoenbeck said. “Certainly, we’ll debate it. It’s a discussion we’re gonna have but I don’t think there’s any realistic chance recreational marijuana passes.” 

Senate Bill 3 is “an act to provide for the use and regulated sale of marijuana” and it contains 48 sections in 30 pages. Lawmakers on the Marijuana Interim Study Committee voted 14-10 in October to endorse bringing forward a proposed bill to legalize some of the same things Amendment A, which passed with voters support 54-46 in Nov. 2020, would have like legalizing possession of one ounce or less of marijuana by a person 21 or older. 

Schoenbeck said only three years ago, he could not have believed lawmakers would be officially discussing recreational marijuana.  

“I’d thought you’d be smoking it before you talked to me,” Schoenbeck said. 

In the House, Rep. Will Mortenson (R-Pierre) said there’ll likely be an initiated measure that makes the ballot in 2022 which gives South Dakota voters a redo on legalizing marijuana. 

“If that passes, mark my words, we’ll implement that faithfully,” Mortenson said. “We’ll wait for the voters to have their say. I don’t think we have to cut in line at this point.” 

He said he understands a lot of voters probably felt whiplashed by Gov. Kristi Noem’s court challenge and eventual Supreme Court ruling striking down Amendment A for having three subjects instead of just one. 

“I wish those sponsors would’ve written it correctly,” Mortenson said about the version of Amendment A passed by voters in Nov. 2020. 

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. The initiated measure is nearly the opposite of the lengthy Amendment A which created ways for the state to tax and regulate marijuana. This marijuana ballot measure contains only six sections to legalize possession of one ounce or less of marijuana by a person 21 or older.

If the initiated measure reaches enough signatures by May 3, 2022, voters will get another say on legal adult-use marijuana in the Nov. 2022 midterm election.

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