New S.D. legislator wants restrictions on pot

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota laws on marijuana must be stronger and more specific now that voters have approved its use, according to an incoming member of the Legislature.

Representative-elect Mary Fitzgerald said Monday that South Dakota needs laws on driving while under the influence of marijuana, banning use of marijuana in a motor vehicle, and requiring a state license for making substances such as hash oil.

Fitzgerald is a St. Onge Republican and is married to Lawrence County State’s Attorney John Fitzgerald. She will represent District 31, which is Lawrence County including the communities of Spearfish, Lead and Deadwood.

South Dakota voters on November 3 overwhelmingly passed a state law allowing medical marijuana for all citizens and more narrowly approved a constitutional amendment allowing and taxing marijuana for recreational use by people age 21 and older. They take effect July 1.

The medical-marijuana laws received 70 percent support statewide and 70 percent support in Lawrence County. The recreational-marijuana language, known as Amendment A, received 54 percent support statewide and 57 percent support in Lawrence County.

Two top law-enforcement officers have asked a state circuit judge to declare invalid the recreational language.

Fitzgerald told KELOLAND News her proposals would apply to medicinal marijuana and, if the court doesn’t rule in favor of the lawsuit, recreational marijuana as well.

“We have to put something in place because we don’t have anything right now to protect us,” she said. “We have to have some way to protect the people of South Dakota from this.”

The 2021 legislative session opens January 12 and runs through March 29.

South Dakota currently doesn’t have a state law setting a specific level for when a person can’t be operating a motor vehicle under the influence of marijuana. Colorado does. “We could look to them for some examples of what would be correct to do,” Fitzgerald said.

South Dakota also doesn’t specifically ban using marijuana in a motor vehicle. Fitzgerald said this restriction could be similar to South Dakota’s law against open containers of alcohol in a motor vehicle.

She also wants to require a state license for manufacturing marijuana concentrates such as hash oil products using flammable solvents such as butane or propane.

She said the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, also known more generally as THC, can be extracted from marijuana plant material using those solvents that are flammable and explosive.

“It’s very easy to make but it’s also very dangerous,” Fitzgerald said.

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