South Dakota voters have a second chance to make their voices heard on an adult-use cannabis legalization measure, after the state’s Supreme Court struck down the adult-use initiative that passed in the 2020 election.

If passed, Initiated Measure 27 would legalize the possession, use and distribution of up to 1 ounce of cannabis or 8 grams of concentrate for adults 21 and older. It would also allow adults to grow up to three cannabis plants at home, with no more than six plants allowed per private residence, but only in private residences located in jurisdictions where there are no licensed dispensaries.

Measure 27 does not set a foundation for a commercial adult-use cannabis cultivation or retail program; there is no mention of a regulatory authority, licensing system or taxation structure in the initiative. That was by design.

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South Dakota made history in 2020 when voters approved medical and adult-use cannabis legalization on the same ballot.

The state’s first medical cannabis sales launched in July, but litigation ultimately overturned the adult-use measure, Amendment A, which was a constitutional amendment that aimed to legalize cannabis for adults 21 and older.

The lawsuit, brought by law enforcement and backed by Gov. Kristi Noem, challenged Amendment A on the grounds that it violated South Dakota’s one-subject rule and actually revised the state’s constitution rather than amended it.

A circuit judge struck down the measure in February 2021, and the South Dakota Supreme Court upheld the ruling in November 2021.

State lawmakers then attempted to restore the will of their constituents by considering an adult-use cannabis legalization bill during the 2022 legislative session, but the legislation ultimately stalled.

In the meantime, South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws (SDBML) collected the roughly 17,000 signatures required to get a new adult-use cannabis legalization measure before voters in the 2022 election.

Matthew Schweich, deputy director for both the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and SDBML told Cannabis Business Times last month that Measure 27 was the “shortest, simplest, most cautious approach” to legalization.

A statewide poll conducted in July by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy of Florida revealed that support for adult-use cannabis legalization in South Dakota may have waned since the 2020 election; the survey of 500 registered voters showed that 43.8% of respondents favored adult-use cannabis legalization, while 54.4% expressed opposition to the issue.

Meanwhile, Noem is up for re-election, running against Democrat Jamie Smith, who currently serves as the minority leader of the South Dakota House of Representatives.

Smith has indicated support for adult-use cannabis legalization, stating on his campaign website: “In South Dakota, the people rule. As governor, I will always seek to carry out the will of the people. We must acknowledge and carry out that decision, which means legalizing recreational cannabis rather than wasting taxpayer dollars on lawsuits. Legalization will also create thousands of potential new jobs and increase our annual GDP by more than $14 million.”

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Noem told KELOLAND News in September that she “absolutely” supports the will of the voters this time, now that the adult-use legalization measure has been revised.

“I do, I absolutely do,” she told the news outlet. “In fact, medical marijuana stood up and running just like they voted on the ballot. It’s my job to make sure everything that I do is constitutional. I took an oath to that.”

Advocates certainly hope Noem stays true to her word.


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