Press Release

South Dakota Voters Legalize Marijuana

Nov 04, 2020

South Dakota becomes first state to legalize medical marijuana and recreational marijuana on the same day

Washington, D.C. — South Dakota voters have approved a constitutional ballot initiative to legalize marijuana for adults 21 and also approved a statutory ballot initiative to legalize marijuana for patients with debilitating health conditions.

“South Dakota has made history by becoming the first state to legalize medical marijuana and legalize marijuana for adults on the same day. Furthermore, it is arguably the most conservative state yet to enact marijuana legalization. This victory has added significance at the federal level with top-ranking Republican Senator John Thune now representing constituents who have clearly stated their support for marijuana reform,” said Matthew Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project and one of the leaders of the South Dakota campaign.

The Marijuana Policy Project, which was founded in 1995, has played a central role in the majority of the state-level marijuana legalization victories that have occurred since 2012.

“A few years ago, nobody would have predicted that South Dakota would legalize marijuana before New York,” Schweich added. “But that’s the power of the ballot initiative process.”

Amendment A will legalize marijuana for adults 21 and over and protect medical marijuana access in the state. Measure 26 would establish a medical marijuana program for qualifying patients with serious medical conditions. The initiatives will take effect July, 1, 2021.

South Dakota is one of five states that voted on marijuana reform ballot initiatives this November. In Arizona, New Jersey, and Montana, there were ballot initiatives to legalize marijuana for adults 21 and over. Mississippi voted on two competing medical marijuana initiatives. The Arizona, New Jersey, South Dakota, and Mississippi campaigns were all successful. Advocates are still awaiting the results in Montana.

Heading into Election Day, 11 states had legalized marijuana for adults 21 and over, and 34 states had legalized medical marijuana.


Founded in 1995, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) is the nation’s leading cannabis policy reform organization. MPP has played a central role in passing dozens of cannabis policy reforms in states across the country, including 10 successful cannabis legalization campaigns, and also works to advance federal reforms.

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