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SD lawmakers compromise on home cultivation of medical marijuana

While current law allows cardholders to grow three or more plants on their own, a deal struck by lawmakers at the legislative session's 11th hour would drastically limit the "home grow" cap to four plants, with only two mature. The compromise still needs to be approved by both chambers.

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Jeremiah Murphy, a lobbyist for the cannabis industry in South Dakota, speaks to a conference committee of lawmakers haggling over a bill setting the allowable number of home-grown marijuana plants.
Christopher Vondracek / Forum News Service
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PIERRE, S.D. — A compromise on South Dakota's thorny cannabis home-grow law has been reached in the Legislature.

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate voted on Wednesday afternoon, March 9, to accept reports from a conference committee that adopted a new four-plant limit on home cultivation of marijuana for cardholders in South Dakota.

Earlier in the day, a legislative conference committee of three lawmakers from the House of Representatives and three from the Senate voted 4-2 to approve setting a new ceiling on the number of cannabis plants a medical marijuana cardholder can grow at home from as low as three to as high as 99 to only four — with no more than two flowering or mature.

"It's a compromise, if you will," said Rep. Fred Deutsch, R-Florence, before the vote on Wednesday, March 9.

Deutsch and other social conservatives in the House have long been opponents of the state's medical cannabis program, which was approved by voters in November 2020.

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While a summer study committee reviewed that new program, which has already started dispensing cards to South Dakota residents, no provision has been more contested than the allowance of a three-plant minimum for cardholders approved to cultivate marijuana at home.

Sensing dwindling daylight on hopes of limiting the "home-grow" provision, Deutsch forwarded the "2-and-2" amendment to Senate Bill 24 on Wednesday.

"This comes a little bit more than halfway," said Deutsch. "I think it's a reasonable compromise for the two chambers to come to."

Negotiations over the home-grow bill had hit loggerheads after the House of Representatives stripped the provision from their version of the legislation. The Senate originally approved SB 24 as allowing three mature plants and three immature plants.

Earlier in the committee's session on Wednesday, both sides attempted to forge ahead with versions of their own bill.

Sen. Mike Rohl, R-Aberdeen, tried to get the committee to agree to the Senate's plan, approved last month.

"The bill would still honor IM 26 by saying three minimum," Rohl said.

But the measure only garnered the support of one other committee member, Rep. Jennifer Keintz, D-Eden.

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Prior to the votes on Wednesday, the committee took a last slate of testimony from familiar faces in the cannabis debate in Pierre over the last two months.

Lobbyist Jeremiah Murphy, speaking for the cannabis industry, reminded the committee that 70% of South Dakota voters approved medical cannabis in 2020.

"It may look like a debate between should we allow six plants total or no plants, but keep in mind what the voters approved was 99 plants," Murphy said. "Three at the bottom end, 9 at the top end."

Dick Tieszen, speaking for the state's sheriffs, acknowledged the session-long fight over marijuana , saying, "I know you're probably sick of hearing from me," before making his remarks.

But he cautioned against the home-grow limits that are currently set, arguing there are few, if any medications that are grown at home.

The approved 2-and-2 formula, which was approved by both chambers around 5 p.m., now goes to Gov. Kristi Noem's desk. If Noem vetoes the bill, the current three-plant minimum remains law.

At the last-minute on Wednesday, the committee considered an escape-hatch for persons who've grown three plants already under current state law, allowing them to donate or sell the plants to a controlled facility.

But the committee could not agree on language, voting down various attempts at an amendment.

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Christopher Vondracek is the South Dakota correspondent for Forum News Service. Contact Vondracek at cvondracek@forumcomm.com , or follow him on Twitter: @ChrisVondracek .

MORE FROM CHRISTOPHER VONDRACEK:
The state's biggest political leaders have touted inbound migration, so-called "blue state refugees" who flooded South Dakota. But the biggest driver of partisan races this coming summer and fall appears to be a redistricting process, log-jamming Republicans in primaries and opening up new turf for Democrats.

Christopher Vondracek covers South Dakota news for Forum News Service. Email him at cvondracek@forumcomm.com or follow him on Twitter at @ChrisVondracek.
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