South Dakota residents will have a chance to change the state’s marijuana policies in a ballot slated for November 8, 2022. Dubbed Measure 27, the Marijuana Legalization Initiative, the ballot initiative may legally allow the use, possession, distribution, and cultivation of marijuana for residents aged 21 years and above.
Frontline advocate group, South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws (SDBML), ensured the initiative reached the ballot after securing the legal number of signatures from residents. The group submitted a total of 31,588 signatures. Although the SDBML needed 16,961 valid signatures from this, the Secretary of State's Office revealed in a press statement that 79% of the submissions (25,023 signatures) were confirmed. Undoubtedly, measure 27 is the most popular initiative slated for the state’s November ballot.
The simple majority of the voters will have to vote in favor of Measure 27 for the proposed amendment to take effect. If the majority of voters are in favor of the Marijuana Legalization Initiative, South Dakota will introduce the following policies:
Individuals that are 21 years old or more can buy and possess up to an ounce of marijuana legally.
Such persons can also grow up to three marijuana plants for self-use, but a maximum of six marijuana plants on private property. However, this only applies to people that live in an area without a licensed marijuana dealer. Cultivation of marijuana plants must occur privately.
The initiative does not seek to amend the current state law that allows employers to set different policies on marijuana use in the workplace. Neither will it change the existing marijuana ban on government-owned properties by the state and local governments.
This is not South Dakota's first time pursuing marijuana legalization in the state. In 2020, residents voted in favor of Amendment A on a ballot to legalize marijuana in the state. Although it ended 54%-46% in favor of legalizing marijuana, the victory was short-lived due to the state’s Supreme Court ruling, which overturned the measure. The court ruled the measure to be unconstitutional, stating that it infringed the South Dakota single-subject rule. Summarily, the Supreme Court pointed out that Amendment A was a revision of the existing law rather than an amendment.
SDBML has learned from this ruling and ensured that Measure 27 is constitutional. Unlike Amendment A, Measure 27 does not propose any changes to the laws concerning taxation, licensing, and local government policies on marijuana.
Furthermore, there were concerns that the South Dakota Constitutional Amendment C, which was eventually defeated, could stop the hopes of marijuana legalization. If the amendment had passed, at least 60% of total voters in a ballot initiated by citizens is required to pass such ballots. Fortunately, 67.43% voted against Amendment C, and this is no longer a concern for the citizens when they return to vote in November.
Marijuana advocates in the state hope to bounce back from the 2020 disappointment and win with a higher margin on the November ballot to avoid legal issues that may once again impede the legalization of marijuana in South Dakota.