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Senate tweaks medical marijuana home cultivation

Republican Rep. Rhonda Milstead & Republican Sen. Blake Curd
Joshua Haiar
Republican Rep. Rhonda Milstead & Republican Sen. Blake Curd

Senate lawmakers are passing a bill that allows medical marijuana patients to grow up to six plants.

The bill now heads to the House, where lawmakers there already passed a ban on home grow.

Home cultivation of cannabis plants for medical marijuana patients was included in a voter-approved medical marijuana program that passed with 70 percent in 2020. Current law allows for six plants at a minimum. Without a cap, cardholders would have the potential to grow a lot more plants.

Senate lawmakers want six plants maximum. They're passing a bill to allow possession of three plants capable of producing THC, and three that aren’t mature yet. THC is the chemical compound that gives pot its high.

Republican Sen. Blake Curd, R-Sioux Falls, says that will allow patients to have a steady supply of medical marijuana.

“So, the idea behind three immature plants and three mature ones is that for a patient that’s using home cultivation as their source, they should be able to have a running supply of flowering plants available to produce THC when they need it,” Curd says.

The bill now heads to the House, which has already voted to bar home grow. That House bill died in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

Republican Rep. Rhonda Milstead, R-Hartford, was a sponsor on the bill. She says medicine is not grown at home.

“So why don’t we apply those same rules to this?” Milstead said. “The problem with home grow is that you can’t control it. You can’t regulate the THC. You can’t keep people away from it. Even if it’s in your basement, people can get access to those things. We’re trying to protect kids.”

If House lawmakers approve the Senate six-plant-maximum bill, it will head to the governor’s desk. If it gets amended, it will go back to the Senate and likely end up in a conference committee between the two chambers. If it fails, the current law will remain.

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.