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SD state lawmakers set to consider legal recreational marijuana in 2022

SD state lawmakers are set to consider a number of bills regarding marijuana in 2022. Many are just clean up measures, while others are much more controversial and consequential.
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Published: Jan. 4, 2022 at 7:33 PM MST
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PIERRE, S.D. - The South Dakota state legislative session is one week away from starting, and with it, a number of bills are already being brought forth for consideration.

A handful of those bills are available for viewing on the South Dakota Legislative Research Council’s (SD LRC) website. An outsized number of them have to do with marijuana.

Even with South Dakota’s medical marijuana program implemented and recreational marijuana struck down by the state’s Supreme Court, many questions on the topic are still left to be answered.

“I look at all the bills coming through the State Senate as ‘clean up bills,” says State Rep. Fred Deutsch (R-Florence). Deutsch was on the Medical Marijuana summer study committee. “They are the result of the summer study, and are pretty much just low hanging fruit, that is how I think of them. All of them passed by large numbers (in committee.)”

By and large, those ‘clean up bills’ largely just codify into law the existing medical marijuana program. Things like presenting an ID when purchasing medical marijuana, revising and eliminating laws around criminality for legal medical marijuana use, and assigning rule making authority over the program, are all bills that will be considered by the legislature in the upcoming session.

IM 26, the measure that voters approved to legalize medical marijuana, left lawmakers much discretion over the process of implementation, a responsibility that was largely undertaken this past summer.

“I want to provide voters the opportunity to have the medical marijuana program that they voted for,” Deutsch said. “A robust, medical program.”

The extent of the marijuana bills being brought for consideration for the 2022 legislative session are not strictly to do with medical marijuana, or cleaning up the program.

Senate Bill 3 effectively legalizes recreational marijuana outright, setting up the infrastructure for it to be sold in a commercial capacity.

By extension, the bill also largely decriminalizes use of marijuana.

“(The bill) is a compromise between eight members of the Senate and sixteen members of the House,” explained Sen. Michael Rohl (R-Aberdeen), the bill’s prime sponsor. “The bill would modernize our criminal code and instruct the Department of Revenue to prepare for adult-use cannabis sales in South Dakota.”

Marijuana advocates believe that the bill is long overdue.

“The support we are seeing in the legislature for cannabis reform, which has never been seen before at this level in South Dakota, is a sign that legislators are listening to their constituents,” said Matthew Schweich, Marijuana Policy Project Director. “They recognize that South Dakota voters are disappointed and angry with the ruling by the state’s Supreme Court on Amendment A.”

The bills that are currently visible online awaiting the legislature’s consideration are just the beginning. In the coming days and weeks, dozens more will come. Both related, and not related to marijuana.

The South Dakota state legislative session starts January 11th with the annual State of the State address.

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