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South Dakota Will Vote on Two Marijuana Ballot Initiatives This Year


In September 2019, cannabis activists in South Dakota started circulating two separate petitions – one to legalize medical marijuana and one to legalize recreational marijuana. While the state’s governor vetoed a hemp bill and Republican lawmakers encouraged people not to sign the petitions, activists didn’t give up and submitted far more than the needed number of signatures to get on the ballot. This is yet another sign of the clear truth that Americans are tired of the failed war on drugs, especially the prohibition of cannabis. 

“South Dakota will become the first state in American history to vote on both medical marijuana and adult-use legalization initiatives on the same ballot,” Matthew Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana Moment.

Both initiatives are being backed by two national advocacy groups, the Marijuana Policy Project and New Approach PAC, so their success thus far shouldn’t be too surprising. The proposed ballot initiative to legalize medical cannabis is a statutory measure, which only required 16,961 signatures. The group behind the measure surpassed that number. The recreational marijuana initiative, on the other hand, is being proposed as a constitutional amendment and required at least 33,921 signatures, which was still surpassed by more than 3,000 signatures. 

“The adult-use legalization initiative will greatly benefit the people of South Dakota by ending the injustice of arresting otherwise law-abiding adults for marijuana offenses. It will focus law enforcement resources on fighting serious crime, generate new tax revenue for the state, and create jobs.”

If the recreational cannabis initiative is passed by voters, it would legalize the possession and sale of cannabis – taxing it at 15 percent to cover costs, public education and contribute to the state’s general fund. It would also require the legislature to pass bills providing access to medical marijuana for patients who need it and allow the sale of hemp by April 1, 2022. However, if both initiatives pass, there would be no need for the state legislature to pass bills to allow medical marijuana access, as the initiative specific to medical cannabis would outline how that program would move forward in the state. 

Not only is South Dakota the first state to get to vote on medical and recreational marijuana simultaneously, but they have a good shot at being the first to pass both at the same time as well. Exceeding their needed signatures was a great start for both campaigns. But, with the strong pushback from politicians, they will need to work hard to encourage voters to go to the polls and show their support in November to make legal cannabis a reality for their state.