South Dakota

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South Dakota First State To Vote On Both Medical And Adult-Use Cannabis Legalization

September 16, 2020

South Dakota is set to be the first state in the United States to vote on both medical and adult-use cannabis legalization on the same ballot this November, representing a major step forward for marijuana advocates. 

Medical marijuana supporters in South Dakota were unable to get enough signatures to place a voting initiative on the ballot in 2018. It would appear that voter attitudes have changed in the state in the past two years, though no independent poll has been conducted to gauge where South Dakotans stand on the issue of legalization. 

While both the medical and adult-use initiatives would allow local jurisdictions to have some control over the distribution of business licenses, the adult-use measure expressly calls for a constitutional amendment that the state issue enough licenses to curb the illicit market. 

Advocates Are Optimistic About Legalization

Although an independent support poll has yet to have been conducted in South Dakota, with over 90% of individuals in favor of cannabis legalization nationwide, advocates appear optimistic about legalization. 

Drey Samuelson, political director for South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, the umbrella group which spearheaded the legalization movement, claimed that “we have a strong reason to be optimistic.” He noted that while he doesn’t think the vote will be a landslide, shifting attitudes surrounding cannabis legalization should be enough to propel the initiative to pass. 

Medical Marijuana Likely to Garner More Support Than Adult-Use Cannabis in South Dakota

With outspoken support and dozens of endorsements from key healthcare, business, and political figures in the state, Samuelson believes that the medical cannabis initiative is likely to garner stronger support than the adult-use measure. 

However, the passing of either initiative is far from a done-deal. Similar to Arizona, South Dakota is facing pushback from their own Governor, Republican Kristi Noem. With additional opposition provided by the South Dakota State Medical Association, voters will be faced with plenty of arguments from both sides. 

Contributed by Jack Berning

photo: South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws