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South Dakota GOP lawmakers continue recreational pot push

February 9, 2021 GMT

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — Two South Dakota Republican lawmakers focused on regulating recreational marijuana said Tuesday they will continue to push the Legislature to address the matter, even after a circuit court struck down a voter-passed measure to legalize it.

A South Dakota judge ruled Monday that a constitutional amendment passed by voters to legalize marijuana would have violated the state’s constitution. But marijuana legalization has stayed on lawmakers’ agenda as pro-marijuana groups plan to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.

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Sen. Brock Greenfield, a Republican from Clark, said it was a “very real possibility” that the Legislature would consider legalizing marijuana this session, even though the voter-passed constitutional amendment was struck down.

He and fellow Republican Rep. Mike Derby said they would continue to push a pair of bills to regulate recreational pot. A ruling from the Supreme Court is not expected until well after the legislative session ends in March.

“It’s probably best to proceed as though this remains a legal issue,” Greenfield said.

He said it was important that lawmakers recognize legalization has support from voters, but acknowledged that many in the Republican-dominated Legislature would be “stand-offish” to legalization.

Greenfield argued the issue of pot legalization was not going away, raising the possibility that it could either pass in the Legislature or by voters in future elections.

Gov. Kristi Noem, who ordered the lawsuit to challenge marijuana legalization, has been an ardent opponent of pot legalization.

“I don’t think anybody got smarter smoking pot,” she said last month. “I think it’s a bad decision for the state of South Dakota.”

Derby has introduced a bill that would set up licensing requirements to sell pot to people 21 years old and over. The details of Greenfield’s bill have not been spelled out yet. If Noem were to veto either bill passed by the Legislature, it would require a two-thirds majority to override it.

Lawmakers are also setting up a medical marijuana program this year. Voters passed a separate initiative in November requiring the Legislature to allow physicians to prescribe marijuana for medical use.