Lawmakers in South Dakota want a firsthand look at how marijuana is grown and sold where it’s already legal before cannabis prohibitions are loosened here this summer.
The South Dakota Legislature’s interim study committee on marijuana met this week for the first time in Pierre, taking testimony from both advocates for medical and recreational marijuana as well as law enforcement and other public officials who aren’t enthusiastic about cannabis legalization.
And while lawmakers are equally divided on the topic of marijuana legalization and the necessary level of legislative response to a pair of cannabis-related ballot measures adopted by voters last fall, the 24-member summer study group reached the consensus that site visits are needed for lawmakers to get a comprehensive understanding of the country’s budding pot industry.
“The topic is a very broad and diverse topic so our goal is to get everyone to a point where we can build on this information,” said Sen. Bryan Breitling, the Miller Republican tapped to chair the summer study.
Medical marijuana is set to become legal July 1, while the future legal status of recreational marijuana remains unclear pending a South Dakota Supreme Court ruling.
But despite that uncertainty, the committee agreed the Legislature needs to be ready in the event the court upholds the constitutional amendment voters passed to legalize all adult pot use. So next month they will head out of state and onto tribal land where the drug is already legal, visiting professional cultivation and retail operations in Iowa, Colorado and the Flandreau Santee Sioux Reservation in Moody County.
Split into two subcommittees, one group will specifically study medical marijuana and visit a medical grow operation and dispensary, with a tour tentatively set for sometime between June 28 and July 1. The other intends to visit Colorado with a focus on recreational marijuana, those though dates aren’t set and first require authorization from the Legislature’s executive board due to the anticipated costs of the expedition.
Breitling said the committee is still working with officials with the Flandreau Santee Sioux tribe to determine a date for all of its members wishing to attend to tour cannabis grow operations there.