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South Dakota Just Got Serious About Marijuana Legalization

Advocacy groups collected enough signatures to place medical and adult-use marijuana initiatives in the upcoming election.

Last year, marijuana advocates fell short collecting enough signatures to put medical marijuana legalizing on the ballot. But this year two separate groups have submitted more than 80,000 signatures to petition the South Dakota Secretary of State to qualify both medical and recreational marijuana initiatives for the upcoming election.

The first petition, collated by New Approach South Dakota, includes over 30,000 signatures and would create a medical marijuana program for patients with debilitating health conditions. South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws spearheaded the second initiative, accumulating more than 50,000 signatures, that would legalize, regulate, and tax cannabis for adults aged 21 and older. In addition, this initiative would push legislators to institute laws that would regulate hemp cultivation, processing, and sales.

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“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,” Brendan Johnson, a former United States Attorney sponsoring the legalization ballot initiative, said in a news release.

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New Approach South Dakota attempted to put medical marijuana on the ballot last year, but their petition was rejected after the Secretary of State’s office ruled about a third of the signatures were invalid.

The minimum number of signatures for a statutory initiative, like the medical marijuana proposal, is 16,961 signatures while a constitutional initiative, like the adult-use cannabis proposal, is 33,921. Both advocacy groups, which have support in the Marijuana Policy Project, now await the state office to certify the signatures they submitted.

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“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,” MPP Deputy Director Matthew Schweich said in a release.

Should South Dakota voters pass both initiatives, it would be the first time a state has created medical and adult-use marijuana programs in the same election. Currently, 11 states have legalized recreational cannabis and 22 states enacted medical marijuana laws.

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