South Dakota has been seeing a great deal of momentum with petitions to legalize some form of cannabis as of late. Last month, a medical marijuana legalization petition was approved and since then, New Approach South Dakota has been working hard to collect the needed signatures before their deadline. Now, a second group – South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws – has had their initiative approved for signature gathering as well. Their goal is legalizing cannabis for adult use, rather than focusing on medical only.
Interestingly, the person who filed the initiative was Brendan Johnson, a former U.S. attorney, who is now working with the activist group to draft an amendment that doesn’t leave much out.
“We are excited to move forward with these ballot initiative campaigns,” Johnson told Marijuana Moment. “South Dakota voters are ready to approve both medical marijuana and legalization at the ballot box next year.”
The South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws initiative would allow adults 21 and older to possess and distribute up to an ounce of cannabis and give adults the right to cultivate up to three plants in their home. It also suggests a 15 percent tax, which would be used to fund the program’s implementation (and any excess funds would go to public education and the state’s general fund). It would leave licensing issues concerning manufacturers, testing facilities and retailers to the South Dakota Department of Revenue.
In addition to legalizing cannabis for adult consumers, the amendment also instructs state lawmakers to create legislation to legalize hemp and medical cannabis as well. Even with recreational cannabis legal for adults, since South Dakota doesn’t yet have medical marijuana laws on the books, this inclusion is important to ensure patients under 21 years of age are able to legally access the medicine they need. Even with a separate initiative on the matter circulating, it’s good to know that the author of this initiative wants to make sure all aspects are covered if the amendment passes.
“The Marijuana Policy Project strongly supports the South Dakota campaign,” MPP Deputy Director Matthew Schweich, who led the organization’s efforts in support of previous legalization campaigns in Maine, Massachusetts and Michigan, told Marijuana Moment. “Across the country, and even in conservative states, voters are demanding marijuana policy reform. Our goal is simple: to effectuate the will of the people when elected officials choose to ignore it.”
Activists seem to believe that South Dakota voters are prepared to legalize marijuana, whether it be for medicinal or recreational purposes – and they have until October 31st to collect 33,921 valid signatures from qualified voters. Both campaigns are going to have to work diligently to meet this goal, but if they are successful, then South Dakota voters will have a chance to make cannabis legal for their state in the 2020 election.