PIERRE — The state legislative summer interim study committee, which was charged with studying the issues of both medical and recreational marijuana use in South Dakota, yielded a slew of recommendations that will be discussed during the next legislative session beginning in January, including one that would make it legal for residents over 21 years old to possess marijuana.
On Thursday, the state Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling that Amendment A violated the single subject rule, and thus was struck down.
“Marijuana is still illegal nationally, so that’s a challenge that we continue to have; however, 35 states have already passed some form of marijuana legalization,” explained Sen. Bryan Breitling, who chaired the interim study committee over the summer.
Breitling gave a broad overview report of the committee’s finding and recommendations during an executive board committee meeting on Nov. 17.
The full summer study committee broke into two subcommittees; one focusing on Initiated Measure 26, which allowed for the implementation of a medical marijuana program through the South Dakota Department of Health, and a subcommittee focused on Amendment A, which would allow for recreational use.
For the medical marijuana subcommittee, Breitling said the focus was on modifying the current statutes laid out in IM 26, which were voted on and passed by voters in November 2020 to maximize public safety.
“Our responsibility is not to protect a single person or a specific business, our responsibility is public safety, and so we took the attitude of … ‘IM 26 was overwhelmingly approved and supported by the residents of the state, so our focus was really, how can we make it the safest and best for our state,’” he said.
The subcommittee listened to testimony from the departments of health and revenue as well as drafters of the measure, numerous law enforcement agencies, the healthcare industry, and a number of entities within the marijuana industry. They also visited several cannabis facilities both in state and out of state, to gain a better understanding of just how marijuana manufacturing and distribution could be handled.
From that research, the subcommittee drafted 23 bills addressing elements of the original statute that it determined need to be tweaked to better fit their mission of public safety. Those bills are expected to be discussed during the next legislative session..
The adult use subcommittee had a bit more of a challenging mission of determining what a recreational use statute should look like, even while the state Supreme court deliberated on whether Amendment A would be considered constitutionally valid at all.
Breitling said the adult use subcommittee drafted two bills in anticipation of the court’s decision, which were designed to legalize recreational marijuana for residents over the age of 21.
“So we have draft legislation that updated the marijuana criminal code and allows for the legalized adult use industry,” he said.
With the Supreme Courts decision Thursday that “Amendment A, as submitted to the voters in the November 2020 general election, violated the single subject requirement in the South Dakota Constitution. As a result of the constitutional violation, the Court has declared the amendment invalid,” the subcommittees bills will also be discussed at the next legislative session.
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