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Legalization Group in South Dakota Gets a Head Start for the 2018 Election


Last Spring, South Dakota had a chance to legalize medical marijuana for patients suffering with cancer and epilepsy, as well as a couple other debilitating conditions. However, that opportunity was taken away quickly, and by the time the bill made it through the Senate it hardly resembled the original legislation – going from a full-fledged medical marijuana program to a CBD-only program – and in the end, even that was denied.

A group of activists called New Approach South Dakota banded together last year in an attempt to get medical marijuana on the ballot for voters to make a decision that lawmakers in the state seem incapable of making. Sadly, even though the group managed to collect the needed 16,000 signatures required to be placed on the ballot, a discrepancy with a notary cost them their opportunity for this past election. While their 2016 attempt may have failed, they are already gearing up for the 2018 election.

“We have a medical cannabis bill, which is very similar to our 2016 ballot initiative, language is the same. We did leave that all in place because we had a great support group and support following in South Dakota,” she says.

While the medical marijuana program would greatly benefit a number of patients who have been waiting or medicating illegally for years, it would do little for the state overall. In attempt to bring some new revenue into the state, the group has also written up an initiative for a recreational cannabis law that would tax and regulate the sale of cannabis and related products – which would create more jobs and bring in thousands, if not millions, of dollars within a few years.

“We have a recreational cannabis bill, which is new to South Dakota this year. It’s a good bill, it brings in lots of revenue for the state and for educators. We’re just waiting the Attorney General’s summary on that, and then we will get started circulating in the state,” Mentele says.

Now that the ballot initiatives have been submitted to the Attorney General, it won’t be long before they are allowed to start gathering signatures for the next election. While it is still a long ways away, it’s always suspenseful waiting for an initiative to be approved by the state – and the sooner they can start gathering signatures the better chance they have to collect far more than the needed number, practically guaranteeing them a spot on the ballot.

“We have learned many lessons from our last petition drive, the most important one being: Check and double-check your notary and seal,” Mentele said in an email.

Now that they have experience with the entire process, it will likely be smooth sailing for New Approach South Dakota and their attempt at getting medical and recreational marijuana passed in a state where lawmakers are all too resistant. Given the amount of time they have and the confidence the group has in getting people to support these initiatives, it should be an interesting election for the state come 2018.