South Dakota Voters To Consider Legalizing Marijuana On 2020 Ballot After Petition Gets Enough Signatures

It would become the 34th state to legalize marijuana in one form or another.

a woman holds a pipe with marijuana and a lighter
SharonMcCutcheon / Pixabay

It would become the 34th state to legalize marijuana in one form or another.

South Dakota medical marijuana-legalization advocates have gathered enough signatures to put a legalization initiative on the ballot for the 2020 election, Rapid City’s KOTA-TV reported. If the measure passes, the state would become the 34th to legalize marijuana, whether for recreational or medicinal use, pending the outcome of other states that will be voting on legalization next year.

By law, it takes 16,961 valid signatures to get an initiative qualified for a ballot measure in South Dakota. Measure 26 garnered 25,524 signatures, which were verified and deemed legitimate by South Dakota Secretary of State Steve Barnett on Thursday.

Barring a challenge to the validity of the signatures, which must be filed by January 20, South Dakota voters will vote on the measure on November 3.

As Marijuana Moment noted, Measure 26 would establish a medical marijuana program in the state, allowing patients with certain debilitating medical conditions to possess and purchase up to three ounces of marijuana from a licensed dispensary. Patients could also grow at least three plants with a physician’s authorization.

Marijuana Policy Project Deputy Director Matthew Schweich said that, if the voters approve Measure 26, it will remedy a decades-long injustice in South Dakota.

“Right now, the state government forces otherwise law-abiding people to be criminals in order to live healthier, happier, and more productive lives. We are going to end that heartless injustice,” he said.

the cannabis plant in front of a tree
  rexmedlen / Pixabay

Another marijuana-legalization proposal, which would legalize marijuana across-the-board for adult use, has garnered plenty of signatures. It is awaiting certification from the Secretary of State’s office.

Whether or not either bill will pass is far from certain. The state’s Republican Party steadfastly opposes the measure, and indeed, encouraged voters not to sign the petitions as they were being circulated. Similarly, the state’s Republican governor, Kristi Noem, vetoed a hemp-legalization bill earlier this year. Hemp, though from the same family as marijuana contains little THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana.

Other attempts at getting marijuana legalized in South Dakota have failed. In 2006, 52 percent of voters said no at the ballot box when faced with the issue at the time. It came up again in 2010, when 63 percent voted no.

Other states are also gearing up for possible changes to their marijuana laws in 2020. Mississippi, Nebraska and New Jersey are all considering marijuana legalization initiatives, in one form or another, in the coming year.

Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level. However, since the Obama administration, the policy of the feds has been to not interfere with states’ marijuana laws, as long as certain conditions, such as keeping the drug out of the hands of children, are met.