On medical marijuana in South Dakota, House refuses to agree with Senate, delay now dead

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The Legislature’s discussion about medical marijuana effectively ended Wednesday afternoon.

A conference committee couldn’t agree on a new version of HB 1100 and unanimously decided at about 3:20 p.m. CT that the legislation should be allowed to die.

That means IM 26 takes effect July 1, 2021, legalizing medical marijuana in South Dakota.

The final blow came at about 6:20 p.m. when the House voted 67-3 to let the bill go and not reappoint.

Earlier Wednesday, representatives had decided they wanted to talk some more about how medical marijuana should be legalized in South Dakota.

House members voted 46-24 against a request by Greg Jamison that they agree with the Senate version. HB 1100 instead went to a conference committee for negotiation between the House and the Senate, as House Speaker Spencer Gosch wanted.

The Senate adjourned for the day at 2:27 p.m. CT. Governor Kristi Noem and her staff reportedly were still working on language they intended to have considered.

Nearly 70% of South Dakota voters in November backed IM 26. Noem campaigned against it and against Constitutional Amendment A that legalized marijuana for people age 21 and older.

Amendment A had 54% support from voters but Noem later won a circuit judge’s ruling that Amendment A is invalid. Amendment A’s lawyers filed their appeal Wednesday afternoon to the South Dakota Supreme Court.

House Republican leader Kent Peterson, House Democrat assistant leader Oren Lesmeister and Gosch represented the House on the six-member conference committee. Gosch was the only sponsor on 1100. Blake Curd, Michael Rohl and Maggie Sutton represented the Senate.

“I think what the Senate is doing, has done, to us, is outrageous,” Fred Deutsch said during the House argument over Jamison’s motion to agree with the Senate version. “This is totally in my five years here the worst bill I have ever seen. There are no standards to protect South Dakotans here.”

Going into the conference committee meeting, majorities in both chambers and the governor wanted legalization delayed until January 1, 2022, so a special committee could make recommendations on topics that IM 26 didn’t cover.

Under that timetable, dispensaries likely wouldn’t have made their first sales to card-holding patients until fall 2022. With IM 26, it’s likely dispensaries will be selling in summer 2022.

Legislators were up against a time crunch. After Thursday, lawmakers return to the Capitol March 29 for the final day of the regular session to handle any vetoes and any other unfinished business.

Gosch promised he had an amendment planned that would take the bill “as close to IM 26 as we have had the entire session” and would disclose its details later.

What he offered to the committee was eliminating the study group, prohibiting people younger than age 21 from using medical marijuana, eliminating home-growing of marijuana and limiting possession to one ounce of marijuana and eight grams of marijuana concentrate.

That failed on a 3-3 tie, as Gosch, Peterson and Sutton voted for it while Curd, Rohl and Lesmeister opposed it.

According to the official attorney general’s explanation for IM 26, “Cardholders may possess 3 ounces of marijuana and additional amounts of marijuana products. Additionally, if a resident cardholder is allowed to grow marijuana plants the cardholder may possess a minimum of 3 plants, as well as marijuana and products made from those plants.”

The state Department of Health will set those rules.

After Gosch saw his latest amendment fail, he called for the committee to make no recommendation. “I think we’re pretty stuck in a gridlock and that at this particular time I don’t see a path forward,” he said. 

Curd agreed the two chambers were “at an impasse.” 

Afterward, House Republicans spent more than an hour in a closed-door caucus Wednesday evening.

When the House reconvened, Gosch moved that no new committee be appointed. He thanked the other representatives for the chance to try. “Ultimately, to no avail, we could not come to an agreement,” Gosch said.

Jamison urged a yes too. “We had worked really hard as a body on this topic. Let’s take this moment to unify us,” he said. 

How They Voted

Here’s how House members voted Wednesday on whether to agree with the Senate version of HB 1100. 

Yes (24) – Aylward, Bordeaux, Cwach, S. Davis, Dennert, Derby, Drury, Duba L. Greenfield, Healy, Jamison, Keintz, Lesmeister, Marty, L. May, Olson, E. Otten, Pischke, Pourier, Rehfeldt, J. Smith, St. John, Thomason, Willadsen. 

No (46) – Anderson, Bartels, Barthel, Beal, Blare, Chaffee, Chase, Deutsch, Finck, Fitzgerald, Goodwin, Gross, Hansen, Haugaard, Hoffman, Howard, K. Jensen, P. Jensen, C. Johnson, Karr, Koth, Ladner, Mills, Milstead, Miskimins, Mortenson, Mulally, Odenbach, Overweg, Perry, K. Peterson, S. Peterson, Randolph, Reed, Reimer, Schneider, Soye, Stevens, Tidemann, Vasgaard, Weis, Weisgram, Wiese, Wink, York, Gosch.

Go to sdlegislature.gov to find the legislators from your area.

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