South Dakota Senate Clears Adult-Use Bill by Slimmest Margin
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South Dakota Senate Clears Adult-Use Bill by Slimmest Margin

The legislation, which now heads to a less-receptive House, aims to reinstate the will of the state’s voters, who approved an adult-use measure in 2020.

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February 24, 2022

Legislation to legalize adult-use cannabis lives to fight another day in one of the most conservative states in the country. 

The South Dakota Senate voted 18-17 on Feb. 23 to pass Senate Bill 3, which aims to legalize up to 1 ounce of cannabis for those 21 and older. An earlier version of the bill called for double that possession limit.

The legislation now heads to the House, where it has six Republican and two Democrat sponsors, but the lower chamber has been less receptive to adult-use reform. Earlier this week, the House rejected a separate measure that aimed to set up a tax structure and regulatory framework for a possible program. In addition, House Republicans have pushed for tighter restrictions on medical cannabis.

The legislative actions come as a result of Amendment A, a voter-approved ballot initiative to legalize adult use from November 2020, which passed with 54.2% majority, being struck down by a circuit court judge on the basis of the state’s single-subject rule. The South Dakota Supreme Court upheld that decision in November 2021.

RELATED: Seven Months Later, South Dakota Supreme Court Says ‘No’ to Adult-Use Cannabis Legalization

In addition to legalizing adult-use sales and possession, S.B. 3 aims to ban home cultivation, despite that proposal being approved by voters via Amendment A.

When S.B. 3 was going through the committee process earlier this month, Republican Sen. Michael Rohl, the bill’s primary sponsor, told Senate Commerce and Energy Committee members that the legislation steers toward enacting one of the more restrictive programs in the country, specifically mentioning the ban on home grows.

Rohl also told committee members that upholding the will of voters “is our complete responsibility.” He added, “The voters of South Dakota clearly expressed their will.”

All the meanwhile, the coalition responsible for putting Amendment A on the 2020 ballot, South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws (SDBML), has been working to collect the signatures needed for a 2022 ballot measure, in case S.B. 3 does not get enacted.

SDBML campaign director Matthew Schweich called Wednesday’s 18-17 Senate vote a success on social media.

He previously told Cannabis Business Times that SDBML would withdraw its initiative bid for the 2022 ballot should the South Dakota Legislature pass adult-use legislation and have that legislation enacted.

Should S.B. 3 clear the House, it would then face the opposition of Gov. Kristi Noem’s pen.

During a Feb. 23 press conference, the Republican governor was explicitly asked if she would veto S.B. 3 should it arrive on her desk.

“Well, it’s hard to talk in hypotheticals,” she said. “I’m not in favor of recreational marijuana. I still believe I haven’t seen anybody get smarter from smoking dope. So, we certainly have a medical program. I have supported medical marijuana for years. We’re in the process of standing up the best program in the country. And I appreciate the legislators for making some reforms to that program this session.”

Noem publicly campaigned against both South Dakota’s medical and adult-use ballot measures in 2020, and then supported a lawsuit that led to Amendment A being struck down last year