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Lawmakers split on home medical-marijuana cultivation


Lawmakers are headed for a showdown over the home cultivation of medical marijuana.

A House committee just passed a bill to ban it. A Senate committee is considering the number of cannabis plants a medical marijuana patient can grow.

South Dakota voters approved a medical marijuana program with 70 percent of the vote in 2020. The measure included home cultivation but requires a minimum of three plants. Backers of the ballot measure said it takes at least three plants to be a serious grower. But some legislators think the minimum should be a maximum, or there should be no home-growing at all.

Republican Rep. Fred Deutsch, of Florence, is the prime sponsor of the bill banning home cultivation.

“I don’t think the voters knew that was in the bill. I don’t think the voters read the bill,” Deutsch says. “I think the voters voted on a concept. The concept to provide South Dakotans legal marijuana when it’s needed. For example, for children with epilepsy. For people that are older, or with terminal illnesses — cancers. I think that’s really what people voted for. I don’t believe for a second that they read all the 95 sections and all the nuances.”

The bill passed in the House State Affairs Committee 10 to 3. However, that bill might not fare well in the Senate.

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee spent most of the week debating bills introduced by the marijuana interim study group, which met last year. Deutsch was part of that group, but the home cultivation ban did not make it on the list of endorsed bills by the committee.

Republican Sen. Wayne Steinhauer, of Hartford, says there is a lot of controversy about home cultivation.

“In my mind I think that many of the people that voted for this — and I’m trying to respect their will — is they anticipated home-grow," Steinhauer says. "But, I believe there was a change needed.”

The Senate Health Committee has passed a bill that says patients can grow up to three plants. Steinhauer says that number could change.

The issue could end up in a conference committee between the two chambers.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.