South Dakota legislators move closer to recommending eliminating ‘home grow’ of medical marijuana

While the recommendation will need to be approved by the full committee next month to bear the weight of a summer study on cannabis law’s seal of approval, the narrow vote at a committee meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 29, suggests lawmakers have more than enough appetite to take away a right the current law affords eligible certified users.

“If we don’t take care of the citizens, who will take care of the citizens?” asked Rep. Carl Perry, an Aberdeen Republican, during heated debate over zeroing out the home-grow program.

Sen. Troy Heinert, a Mission Democrat, said he opposed the motion, invoking previous instances when lawmakers overruled the people’s majority vote on legislation.

“We keep trying this time and again,” said Heinert. “But it’s legal. Let’s move on.”

But the motion, brought by Rep. Fred Deutsch, R-Florence, drew the support of public testifiers, including representatives of county sheriffs.

Staci Ackerman, the executive director of the South Dakota Sheriffs Association, said home-grow, as opposed to purchasing manufacturer-grown marijuana products, was open to “nefarious” individuals and could endanger children. Later, during public testimony, Ackerman referred to “our South Dakota values” when defending her organization’s opposition to the medical marijuana program.

In fact, nearly three-fourths of South Dakota voters approved the medical marijuana program last November, in supporting Initiated Measure 26, which included the home-grow provision, allowing for a “minimum” of three plants.

But the committee voted 6-to-4 to approve Deutsch’s motion.

Still, the committee didn’t approve all attempts to winnow back the cannabis rights guaranteed by IM 26. Earlier in the day, a motion brought by Rep. Caleb Finck, R-Tripp, to force manufacturers of medical cannabis to undergo yearly financial audits was unanimously defeated.

“This just smells of harassment,” said Sen. V.J. Smith, R-Brookings.

Rep. Hugh Bartels, R-Watertown, also discouraged supporting the yearly audits, calling them “expensive” and inappropriate for most entities outside a bank or lending institution.

The full summer study committee will meet once more this fall to consider recommendations from the recreational and medical subcommittees.

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