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South Dakota Voters in Favor of Cannabis Legalization

October 27, 2020

With South Dakota primed to be the first state to vote on both medical and adult-use cannabis legalization at the same time this November election cycle, a new poll indicates that voters are in favor of both measures. 

The initiative that would allow for adults in the state to grow, possess, and purchase marijuana is shown to be leading by a margin of 51 to 44 percent among likely voters. The medical cannabis item garneded 74 percent support with just 23 percent in opposition, according to the poll released over the weekend by Argus Leader Media and KELO-TV.

Poll Demographics of South Dakota Cannabis Legalization

Voters are especially divided upon demographic lines on the issue of recreational legalization. 57 percent of voters under the age of 50 support the measure, while those over 50 narrowly disapprove of the legislation. Republicans are staunchly in opposition, with only 34 percent of voters in favor. Democrats and independents favor the measure by 73 percent and 58 percent, respectively. 

The separate ballot measure dedicated to medical cannabis, however, obtained a super-majority backing among each surveyed group. In fact, it enjoyed a higher percentage of approval than any other item surveyed, including the presidential election, other proposed legislation on the ballot, and other official offices like the governor’s chair. 

Governor Remains Publicly Opposed To Cannabis Reform

Gov. Kristi Noem (R), who recently vetoed a bill that would allow hemp to be grown in the state, released an ad this October encouraging voters to reject the adult-use cannabis legalization measure on the terms that: “I’ve never met someone who got smarter from smoking pot.” 

In South Dakota, one in ten arrests are attributed to marijuana possession. That figure accounted for 4,000 arrests in 2018, of which disparately impacted people of color despite similar consumption rates among white cannabis users. With each arrest costing around $4,000, pro-legalization groups argue that law enforcement time and resources could be better spent elsewhere. 

While medical marijuana appears to be poised for an easy passing, recreational cannabis use will be a tight vote, and will highly depend on democratic voter participation. 

Contributed by Jack Berning