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South Dakota lawmakers push to outlaw homegrown medical pot

September 1, 2021 GMT

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota lawmakers looking to remake the state’s voter-passed medical marijuana law previewed a coming battle in the Legislature Wednesday as they recommended outlawing growing medical marijuana in homes and allowing local governments to prohibit dispensaries.

A legislative subcommittee approved a spate of recommended changes to a ballot measure voters approved by 70% of voters last year. The law is set to take full effect in the coming months as the state government faces deadlines to issue medical marijuana identification cards and provide for the licensure of medical marijuana dispensaries.

However, the law will continue to be in flux. Republicans, who dominate the Legislature, are currently debating just how far to go in changing the law. The subcommittee Wednesday recommended changes that could potentially make it more difficult for people in rural areas to access medical marijuana — most significantly by striking all provisions allowing medical marijuana ID-card holders to grow cannabis plants in their homes and allowing local governments to prohibit dispensaries.

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The recommendations will next face approval by the Marijuana Interim Study Committee before they can be passed to the full Legislature. The committee’s recommendations will undoubtedly fall into a divide among Republicans on marijuana laws, with some pushing for tight restrictions while others reason that they risk defying the will of voters if they go too far. Gov. Kristi Noem’s attempt to slow the medical marijuana bill from taking effect this year was halted by Senate Republicans who pushed less restrictive pot laws.

Republican Rep. Fred Deutsch predicted marijuana would be a hot topic once again in next year’s legislative session, saying he was expecting a “wealth of marijuana legislation.”

He said that allowing medical marijuana users to grow cannabis in their homes would result in a black market for the drug, especially if there is no cap on the number of plants allowed.

Deutsch argued that when voters passed the initiated measure last year, they were voting on whether they generally wanted the state to legalize medical marijuana, but the law also contains 95 sections that impact schools, local governments and law enforcement.

“I want medical marijuana to be accessible to anyone who qualifies for it,” he said. “But I do want to put up guardrails and gutters to provide safety for South Dakotans that don’t need it and don’t need to be exposed to it, especially our children.”

However, Democratic Rep. Linda Duba charged that the recommendations amount to gutting key provisions of a law that was “carefully crafted” and reflected the will of voters.

She said, “I’m tired of people saying they are following the will of the people, then they turn right around and say we know better what you meant, so we’re going to restrict here, here and here.”