Amendment A plan legislation heads to SD State House

Published: Feb. 25, 2021 at 9:10 AM CST
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PIERRE, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The South Dakota State Senate advanced a recreational marijuana legalization plan by a narrow margin of 19 to 16.

However, the bill would only do so if Amendment A were to be upheld in the South Dakota Supreme Court.

SB 187 was written to “establish criteria regarding marijuana” originally. However, it was a “hoghouse bill,” meaning effectively, it was written early on in the state legislative session and intended to be a way to include whatever marijuana legislation the sponsor wants in it.

“Again we are trying to provide an established structure that can be filled in over time,” said Sen. Brock Greenfield (R-Clark), the bill’s sponsor. “If not, we start from scratch next year, we argue over who can and cannot apply, how they can or can’t do business and we are at the same point next year during crossover week.”

(This week is “crossover week.” It is the week where all legislation has to be in the chamber opposite it started in, or it dies.)

Some opposed the bill strictly for the fact that the bill would legalize recreational marijuana, and that they believed it was preemptive until the legality of Amendment A is settled. Other less hardline opponents say the bill simply isn’t the right way to move forward on the issue.

Sen. Michael Rohl (R-Aberdeen) is a vocal supporter of recreational marijuana legalization, but spoke against this bill.

“I told the people of South Dakota that I will respect their wishes, and I will push for responsible cannabis legislation in South Dakota,” Rohl said from the Senate floor. “(But) I do not believe this is responsible legislation... I am certainly open to having this legislation amended in which case I would support it.”

The bill would give localities the ability to sell marijuana in grocery stores, gas stations, and convenience stores. Greenfield and his family own a number of those entities, however, when asked if he would benefit personally from this bill Greenfield said that he still opposes recreational marijuana personally and did not intend to sell it in any of his business.

He also says this bill is just a first step.

“This is the process by which we would establish it, and local jurisdictions could say no. If they have a problem or if they think it would be too hard to sell in a convenience store or a grocery store, they could say no.”

Pro-marijuana advocates acknowledged some of the bills shortcomings as well.

“The bill relies on the state’s already existing and proven regulatory framework for adult-use products, such as alcohol and tobacco, and simply adds cannabis to the list of available products,” said Emmett Reistroffer, a pro-marijuana lobbyist. “However, this bill drastically falls short of actually legalizing cannabis. SB 187 is a preemptive attempt driven by retailers to put special privileges and rules in place before legalization happens.”

SB 187 now heads to the State House, where it likely faces a more uphill battle to passage. However, the future of legalized, recreational marijuana very much hangs in the balance of litigation before the state supreme court.

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