Despite voter approval, the marijuana ballot initiatives face stiff opposition among state leaders, including Governor Kristi Noem.
For the first time in United State history, a state will vote on both medical and recreational marijuana legalization in the same election. This week, South Dakota’s Secretary of State Steve Barnett certified an adult-use marijuana initiative, stating there were enough valid signatures to add the proposal to the November ballot.
The initiative would legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older in the state, while also creating a system for regulated sales of marijuana. In addition, the proposal would force the state legislature to establish a hemp cultivation law in South Dakota. The Marijuana Policy Project and New Approach PAC, two national marijuana advocacy groups, have announced support for both the medical and recreational marijuana initiatives.
“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,” Matthew Schweich, deputy director at MPP told The Fresh Toast. “It will focus law enforcement resources on fighting serious crime, generate new tax revenue for the state, and create jobs.”
South Dakota ranks among the most punitive states with regards to cannabis, despite voter proposals like the ones now on the 2020 ballot. All forms of CBD oil and industrial hemp are illegal in the state, except the FDA-approved drug Epidiolex, a cannabis-derived drug that treats rare forms of epilepsy.
In March of last year, Governor Kristi Noem vetoed a bill legalizing hemp production in the state. Noem added later in the year that she would veto any hemp bills in 2020 as well. In the past, she has cited concern that legalizing hemp was a gateway to eventual recreational marijuana legalization and would undermine law enforcement’s ability to enforce marijuana laws in the state. Marijuana-related prosecutions have dropped by more than half in Texas, as prosecutors now must prove in possessions cases that defendants were carrying cannabis with THC levels above 0.3%, which requires expensive lab testing.
“At this point, it appears increasingly unlikely that Congress will pass legislation this year to fix our nation’s broken federal marijuana laws,” Schwein said. “Therefore, it is crucial that our movement win as many ballot initiative campaigns as possible this November and increase the pressure on Congress to take action. That is how we will ensure success at the federal level in 2021.”