South Dakota Wants Marijuana Legalized

(Top) Marijuana leaf and pipe. (Bottom) Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota.
(Top) Marijuana leaf and pipe. Photo by Kimzy Nanney on Unsplash. (Bottom) Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota. Photo by Brandon Mowinkel on Unsplash.

South Dakota is 1 of 17 states where cannabis is still completely illegal. Hopefully, that will turn soon.

Marijuana reform groups submitted petitions containing over 80,000 signatures to the South Dakota Secretary of State to qualify two separate marijuana reform ballot initiatives for next year’s election. One initiative would establish a medical marijuana program for qualified patients with debilitating health conditions, while the other would legalize marijuana for adults aged 21 and older and require the state legislature to enact a hemp cultivation law.

“We are proud to have submitted petitions on behalf of over 80,000 South Dakotans who believe that voters should decide our state’s marijuana and hemp laws,” said Brendan Johnson, a former United States Attorney who is the sponsor of the legalization ballot initiative.

New Approach South Dakota submitted over 30,000 signatures for a statutory ballot initiative that would enact a medical marijuana law for patients with debilitating medical conditions.

South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws submitted over 50,000 signatures for a constitutional ballot initiative that would legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adults aged 21 and older and would also require the legislature to enact laws regulating the cultivation, processing, and sale of hemp.

The minimum number of signatures required for ballot qualification is 16,961 for a statutory initiative and 33,921 for a constitutional initiative. Today was the deadline for submitting signatures, and the South Dakota Secretary of State will now begin verifying the validity of the signatures.

“For many years, we have asked the legislature to address the issue of medical marijuana,” said Melissa Mentele, director of New Approach South Dakota and sponsor of the medical marijuana ballot initiative. “Despite the fact that a strong majority of South Dakotans support allowing legal, regulated, and safe access to medical marijuana for patients with debilitating conditions, elected officials have failed to take action. Patients cannot afford to wait any longer, and this ballot initiative is our only recourse.”

Two of the leading national marijuana policy reform organizations, the Marijuana Policy Project and New Approach PAC, are supporting the South Dakota campaigns.

“Right now, there are South Dakotans with serious health conditions who are forced to break the law in order to access effective medical treatments that allow them to live healthier and more productive lives, and that is unacceptable,” said Marijuana Policy Project Deputy Director Matthew Schweich, who has worked on successful marijuana reform ballot initiative campaigns in Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Utah.

Eleven states have legalized marijuana for adults, and another 22 states have enacted medical marijuana laws. South Dakota would be the first state to enact both policies on a single ballot.

“Across the country, voters are recognizing that it makes no sense to waste law enforcement resources on arresting adults for marijuana possession and that it also makes no sense to force marijuana sales into an unregulated illicit market,” said Schweich. “Simply put, legalizing, regulating, and taxing marijuana is the policy decision that best serves the interests of public health and public safety.”

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