South Dakota lawmakers snub marijuana backers on 2 bills


PIERRE (AP) – Members of the South Dakota House and Senate took turns deflating marijuana supporters on Thursday, one body approving a plan to delay implementation of medical cannabis and the other killing a bill that would have decriminalized the drug.

The House pushed forward on Gov. Kristi Noem's idea to give the Department of Health additional time to work on a medical marijuana strategy and create a working group of lawmakers to help lay out the program. Noem wanted a year delay. The House settled on six months.

Republican Speaker of the House Spencer Gosch, who's carrying the bill for Noem, adjusted the bill down to half a year in the spirit of compromise, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported.

Opponents of the delay have said tinkering of the voter-approved ballot measure only erodes public confidence in their state government. Some have doubts that the health department’s request for more time is genuine and that delay efforts aren’t a ploy to buy time for the governor and her allies to work on repealing the measure.

The Senate on Thursday defeated a bill that would have changed existing statute so people who possess small amounts of cannabis are no longer arrested in South Dakota.

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