PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Recreational marijuana will remain illegal in South Dakota.
The House State Affairs Committee voted 8-3 Monday to kill legislation that would have legalized it for people at least age 21.
A group continues to gather signatures to put the question on the statewide ballot. South Dakota voters approved Constitutional Amendment A in the 2020 election that would have legalized recreational marijuana, but the South Dakota Supreme Court threw it out after a challenge by Governor Kristi Noem.
The House committee Monday also resurrected two other proposals that would affect South Dakota’s medical cannabis program that voters approved in 2020 in IM 26.
The panel stripped the language from SB 150 that the Senate had passed and combined the language from SB 16 and SB 20 into it.
SB 16 sought to repeal enforcement powers that were given to the state Department of Health in IM 26. Those powers would shift to law enforcement agencies. SB 20 sought to repeal the medical defense in IM 26 for people caught with cannabis but lacked state cards for its use. Both bills had failed in the House Judiciary Committee after getting through the Senate.
On the recreational question, Jeremiah Murphy, a lobbyist for the Cannabis Industry Association of South Dakota, warned that the issue might not be on South Dakota’s ballot until November 2024. He said the matter is being challenged in court.
Emmett Reistroffer from Genesis Farms said there’s “a lot” of money at stake. He had a market analysis done. “We believe this is a half-a-billion dollar market,” he said. “That’s 1% of our state GDP.” Taxed at a 15% rate, it would mean $75 million to state government, he said. “I think it’s a lot of good things we can do.”
Opponent Dick Tieszen, representing the South Dakota Sheriff’s Association, agreed money was at stake. “This is about a lot of money to be made in the marketing of marijuana in South Dakota,” he said. He warned the THC level of modern marijuana was much stronger than what people knew in the 1960s and 70s. “It’s powerful, powerful stuff,” he said.
Representative Kevin Jensen, R-Canton, explained his reason for voting against it. He said 16% of South Dakota high school students in a recent survey reported using marijuana on a regular basis. “My gut feeling is we will increase youth problems exponentially,” he said.
Representative Hugh Bartels, R-Watertown, testified in favor of bringing back SB 16 and SB 20 through SB 150. Both bills had been recommended by the Legislature’s study committee on marijuana that Bartels co-chaired.
Bartels said 83 physicians have signed recommendations for patients to receive state medical-cannabis cards and the state Department of Health has issued more than 200. He said letting people claim the medical defense was like honoring insurance coverage that a motorist bought after the crash.
Reistroffer said law enforcement was the only group pushing for the two bills to come back. The amendment came from Senator Helene Duhamel, R-Rapid City, who is the public information officer for the Pennington County sheriff’s office.
Representative Kent Peterson, R-Salem, who chairs the committee, asked whether putting both bills into one bill would violate South Dakota’s single-subject rule. Said Bartels, “This amendment embraces the medical marijuana law.”
Representative Spencer Gosch, R-Glenham, tried to strip the SB 16 language out so that the hoghoused SB 150 only had the language from SB 20. Representative David Anderson, R-Hudson, disagreed that step was necessary. “Both of these concepts were dealt with in the initiated measure (IM26),” Anderson said.
Gosch’s change failed on a tie vote. The combined bill limped out 7-5.