Governor, legislators say court decision on recreational pot will come after session’s end

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Republican legislative leaders said Thursday work is under way for carrying out voters’ decisions allowing medicinal use of marijuana in South Dakota.

Republican Governor Kristi Noem meanwhile said her attempt to have a court invalidate the result on recreational marijuana has valid points.

The lawmakers and governor agreed the South Dakota Supreme Court won’t rule in Noem’s case until after the 2021 legislative session ends March 29.

The recreational-marijuana amendment says the state Department of Revenue must have regulations in place by April 1, 2022.

Voters in the November 3 election approved medicinal use of marijuana 291,754 to 125,488. and recreational use 225,260 to 190,470.

Two pieces of marijuana-related legislation have been officially introduced so far in the 2021 session. Senate Bill 35 seeks more than $4 million to cover regulatory costs of two state departments. House Bill 1061 would prohibit smoking marijuana in motor vehicles on public highways and rights of way.

Legislators and lobbyists however have been meeting in what’s known informally as “the cannabis caucus” at the Capitol.

The governor said her administration is “still doing work to be prepared” for medical marijuana and in case recreational marijuana is upheld.

“But this litigation has some valid points going forward. It will not be resolved before session is over. So that’s why we’re working with legislators to make sure that we’re adequately prepared and that the planning is there to implement responsibly if necessary,” Noem said in response to a KELOLAND News question.

House Republican leader Kent Peterson of Salem said House members are in “a holding pattern” on recreational marijuana while the lawsuit proceeds. “As for the medical marijuana side, obviously that was passed by a strong majority of South Dakota voters and something we have to implement and make sure it’s done correctly,” Peterson said.

“So there are many people in groups looking at that and making sure what was passed is safe and it takes into consideration many things, whether it be law enforcement, education and so forth as we move forward,” he continued. “Our job is to make sure it gets implemented.”

Senate Republican assistant leader Mike Diedrich of Rapid City said, “It’s clear the intention of the Legislature is to honor the voice of the people in the election and go forward with that. It’s also interesting in that South Dakota is the first state to ever have both medical and recreational marijuana approved in one year.

“And developing the regulations for both sides of that will take a lot of work in an extremely compressed time frame. So it will be interesting to see how that plays out,” Diedrich continued. He said the purpose of the ‘cannabis caucus’ is to be a source of information and to work through ideas.

Senate Republican leader Gary Cammack of Union Center said, “The issue is incredibly complex.” Dealing with both decisions in the same year “compounds the complexity of how we handle this thing,” he said. “As we move forward, we want to do it right, we want to get the thing right.”

He added, “About everybody agrees we’ve got to come up with some revenue from this and the reason is to cover the social costs and everything else that is associated with it. But the other thing is, you don’t want to create a situation where it enhances the opportunity of a black market.”

Cammack said he doesn’t want taxpayers to bear the costs. On the lawsuit, Cammack said, “It really adds to the complexity of it. It’s the expression of an opinion on the litigation of the thing. But in the end it’s up to the discretion of a judge to make that decision.”

Diedrich, a lawyer, said the circuit court case won’t be resolved until April, May or June. Peterson said it is “likely” to end up in the South Dakota Supreme Court with a decision possibly this fall.

“In my mind,” Peterson said, “with what we’re working on, this is a completely separate issue on the medical marijuana side. The governor’s free to do as she sees fit with what she did.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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