Weed Bills Dominate SD’s Legislature

The South Dakota State Capitol in PIerre. Photo: Shutterstock

Of the 38 bills posted to the South Dakota state legislative website prior to next week’s session, over 70% of them are in one way or another related to the state’s medical marijuana or a proposed adult use pot programs.

PIERRE, S.D. – A week out from the 2022 legislative session in South Dakota, there are 38 bills posted – nearly three-fourths of them related to cannabis.

If residents thought the weed wars of 2021 – a recreational marijuana measure and court overturning an adult use constitutional amendment – were behind them, they were wrong.

“I believe they represent the agreement of the study committee that certain changes need to be made to the medical marijuana program that I believe will help improve the program,” said Sen. David Wheeler, R-Huron, who spoke with Forum News Service on Monday, Jan. 3. “They are not meant to hinder access to medical marijuana.

Just over a year ago, South Dakota appeared to be the latest state to legalize recreational marijuana when a slim majority of voters approved a statewide ballot measure legalizing cannabis. But after a 4-1 Supreme Court decision released the day before Thanksgiving, the measure known as Amendment A was finally dead.

Even prior to the long-awaited November ruling, however, lawmakers had predicted an onslaught of marijuana-related legislation to hit the 2022 session – from foes and proponents alike.

That’s because many lawmakers wanted to take a crack at tinkering – or undoing significant provisions – of a medical marijuana program also approved by the voters in 2020 through a separate ballot measure, Initiated Measure 26.

As of Monday morning, all but two of the 27 proposed bills address the state’s medical marijuana law, established this past year with the first state-grown products expected to be rolled out this coming summer. And all of those measures – save one rogue bill – arrive to Pierre via a summer interim study by a group of lawmakers.

Among the bills, one specifies greater rights for landlords and schools seeking to prohibit or limit medical marijuana use on sites. Another ratchets up civil penalties – from $150 to $1,000 – for dispensary owners whose employees violate state law in selling medical pot to non-cardholders or minors. A third specifies that an applicant provide a photo ID to receive a card.

The only rogue measure to come from outside the interim committee, proposed by Rep. Fred Deutsch, R-Florence, would strip the voter-approved measure’s allowance of home cultivation of marijuana plants.

Another bill supported by the committee would turn the three plant minimum into a maximum, a source of contention within the interim study.

On the adult use side, a bill sponsored by Sen. Mike Rohl, R-Aberdeen, would re-establish what the state courts wiped away, namely a legal recreational pot program in the state. Another measure would set up a taxation system.

While Gov. Kristi Noem had opposed adult use in the past, Wheeler said the governor’s letting the Legislature “be in the driver’s seat” on the marijuana legislation.

“If it did gain enough support to pass both houses of the legislature, I would hope the governor wouldn’t veto that,” Wheeler said. He doubted the chambers had veto-proof majorities for an adult use bill.

Other pieces of legislation so far posted to the state website include a bill to disqualify an individual convicted of human trafficking to hold a commercial license and another to create a state holiday for Juneteenth. Last year, South Dakota became the only state in the nation not to officially recognize the day when President Biden signed a law enshrining the day as a federal holiday.