Will 2016 bring reform to South Dakota?
Last update: January 26, 2016
The South Dakota Legislature is back in session, but so far it has shown no interest in joining states with modern marijuana policies. No bills have been introduced to protect seriously ill patients who can benefit from medical cannabis or to reduce the state’s draconian marijuana penalties. However, in one bright spot, an industrial hemp bill has been introduced in the 2016 session, which would allow registrants to grow hemp, less than 0.3% THC, regardless of whether the DEA approves.
Please ask your legislators to stand up for patients and to support imposing a civil fine — not possible jail time — on simple possession of marijuana. You can also ask them to support a new, more sensible approach to marijuana by legalizing, regulating, and taxing it like alcohol for adults’ use.
Meanwhile, in June 2015, the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe showed an appetite for sensible marijuana policy when it became the first tribe in the nation to legalize cannabis. The tribe planned to create a “marijuana resort,” but ran into difficulty when the South Dakota Attorney General said that the tribe’s vote to legalize marijuana only applied to tribal members. The tribe destroyed its crop in November 2015, fearing a raid after talking with Department of Justice officials.
Marijuana laws and enforcement in South Dakota
In 2012, there were 2,297 arrests for marijuana possession in South Dakota, and 127 arrests for marijuana sales. Possession of just a small amount of marijuana in the state carries a potential penalty of a year in jail and a $1,000 fine! Even more alarmingly, a recent study by the American Civil Liberties Union found that South Dakota was among the top 10 states with the largest racial disparities in marijuana possession arrest rates. Despite people of all races using marijuana at nearly identical rates, blacks in South Dakota are nearly 4.8 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession.
Can medical marijuana help you?
In order to pass medical marijuana legislation, we need to hear from patients who could benefit (or are already benefiting) from medical marijuana. If you are a patient who might benefit from medical marijuana, or if you know somebody who might benefit from medical marijuana, please contact MPP at [email protected] to find out how you can help. Please include your nine-digit zip code or your address, so we can figure out who your state legislators are.
Additionally, if you are a medical professional, law enforcement officer, or a member of the clergy, your help could be particularly valuable. If you would like to volunteer to help with this effort, please email [email protected].
Thank you for supporting the Marijuana Policy Project. If you have not already, please subscribe to our free legislative alert service to stay up-to-date on the status of marijuana policy reform in South Dakota.