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One pot bill killed, another moves forward
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One pot bill killed, another moves forward

Troy Heinert

Sen. Troy Heinert, D-Mission, urged the Senate State Affairs committee on Wednesday to pass his amendment to House Bill 1095, which would add the language of Amendment A to the bill. 

Two bills creating frameworks for legal recreational marijuana in the event that Amendment A is declared constitutional by the State Supreme Court came before the House and Senate State Affairs committees on Wednesday with mixed results.

The first, Senate Bill 187, would establish provisions to sell adult-use retail marijuana, but it was moved to the 41st day, effectively killing it.

The second, House Bill 1095, is a vehicle bill that would establish criteria regarding marijuana. Sen. Troy Heinert, D-Mission, proposed an amendment to 1095 that included the text of Amendment A without the provisions for hemp or medicinal marijuana. Heinert’s amendment failed, but the original bill passed.

Senate Bill 187

SB 187’s prime sponsor Sen. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, said the bill came from the recognition that the legislature had to do “something” to further the discussion on marijuana legalization in the state.

The bill has three triggers that would put it into effect: if the Supreme Court affirms Amendment A’s constitutionality, if the federal government decriminalizes or legalizes marijuana, or if voters approve another constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana that goes unchallenged.

“If any of those things happens, it’s important that we have something in place. We do not want an unregulated industry for any period of time,” Greenfield said.

Greenfield said he didn’t want to recreate the wheel, so much of the legislation is pulled from the law regarding malt liquor licenses, which he described as an “adult-oriented business model.” He acknowledged the bill only contains a “skeletal structure” to form a foundation on which to continue the conversation around legalization.

Rep. Mike Derby, R-Rapid City, the bill’s other prime sponsor, said it provides communities with local control to decide whether marijuana can be sold in their areas.

Rep. Charlie Hoffman, R-Eureka, also testified in favor of the bill, calling it an insurance policy.

“I think doing nothing at this point in time may actually hurt us more than if we pass this legislation which will just be on the books and won’t do anything unless one of those three triggers is met,” Hoffman said.

On the opposing side, policy advisor to Governor Kristi Noem Maggie Seidel testified, citing a laundry list of facts and figures highlighting the dangers of marijuana use. She said legalizing pot has “very real societal consequences” and that it is not good for South Dakota families or the state’s way of life.

Mike Houdyshell, legal counsel for the Department of Revenue, said the bill’s contents are not the right policy for the state and that the legislature should wait to establish proper rules and regulations.

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Assistant Majority Leader Rep. Chris Johnson, R-Rapid City, motioned to move the bill to the 41st day, seconded by Rep. David Anderson, R-Hudson. Anderson said he wanted to wait and see if Amendment A is deemed constitutional, and said SB 187 was “putting the cart before the horse.”

All but House Speaker Spencer Gosch, R-Glenham, voted to send the bill to the 41st day.

House Bill 1095

The discussion of HB 1095 mostly centered around the amendment B proposed by Heinert, which incorporated the language of Amendment A into a statute rather than a constitutional amendment.

Emmett Reisteffer, a lobbyist for Johnson Properties in Sioux Falls, said the synthesis was “a win-win” and that continued prohibition is “unequivocally a failure.” He urged senators not to debate whether the amendment is good policy because it already has the support of the voters.

“It’s not whether you think Amendment A is good policy or not. The question is, are you willing to move forward what the voters asked for,” Reisteffer said. “This is a clean written amendment; the issue brought forth in the courts regarding Amendment A was about constitutionality. The plaintiffs even made clear in their briefs they were not debating the merits of the policy. There were merely concerned about the constitutionality.”

Ned Horsted of Sioux Falls echoed Reisteffer’s testimony, and added that legalization would create new revenue, as well as hundreds of jobs, for the state. And, like SB 187, Horsted said 1095 B provides communities with local control to decide whether to establish retail licenses for recreational pot.

Seidel reprised her opposing testimony from SB 187, and added that legislation surrounding legalization has not paid enough attention to the “actual effects” of marijuana usage and that Heinert’s amendment has “no clear directive that this relates to the will of the people.”

Jason Husby of the Department of Public Safety also testified against the bill, saying it allows people to possess “significant quantities” of marijuana with few sanctions. He said possession of eight ounces, or a half pound, of marijuana under this law would only be punished by a class two misdemeanor. To demonstrate the quantity this bill permits, he had Highway Patrol Director Major Rob Weinmeister took a cookie jar-esque container of pot and displayed the contents to each individual senator.

Cabinet Secretary of the Department of Revenue Jim Terwilliger also testified in opposition. The Department of Revenue is tasked with promulgating all of the rules and regulations for recreational marijuana, which Terwilliger said is “way too much authority” for the department.

In his rebuttal, amendment sponsor Heinert said all of the opposing testimony, all from administration, is the “exact reason” the committee needed to pass his amendment.

“To me, and seeing what I have seen in my community where opioids are used illegally for many different issues, if we can do this the South Dakota way, maybe we’ll stop the opioid abuse. Maybe we’ll finally address the meth issue. We know what we’re doing right now is not working. We should try something else,” Heinert said.

Sen. Lee Schoenbeck, R-Watertown, said it was a “gross misstatement” to describe the amendment as the will of the voters. He said that the marijuana industry’s influence in helping write the amendment and campaign was the real reason Amendment A passed.

Sens. Casey Crabtree, R-Madison, Michael Rohl, R-Aberdeen, and Heinert voted to pass amendment B, which failed 3-6.

Schoenbeck moved to pass HB 1095 without the amendment, seconded by Crabtree. This time, the unamended bill passed with only one vote against — Sen. Jim Bolin, R-Canton.

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