South Dakota will vote on medical marijuana and adult-use legalization in November!
Last update: January 13, 2020
Thanks to the hard work of advocates who gathered over 83,000 signatures in just two months last fall, South Dakota will become the first state to ever vote on medical marijuana and adult-use legalization at the same time.
South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws is championing the initiative to tax and regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol and working alongside New Approach South Dakota, which is supporting the medical marijuana measure. Both campaigns expect strong opposition from powerful politicians in the state, but polling suggests each proposal enjoys majority support among South Dakota voters.
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South Dakota Secretary of State Steve Barnett (white shirt), MPP Deputy Director Matthew Schweich (blue blazer), and South Dakota campaign staff and volunteers stand alongside over 53,000 signatures being submitted to qualify the constitutional adult-use marijuana legalization ballot initiative.
South Dakota marijuana possession laws may be the nation's harshest
Possession of just a small amount of marijuana in South Dakota carries a potential penalty of a year in jail and a $2,000 fine. Even more alarmingly, individuals who have consumed marijuana elsewhere are also subject to this penalty if they test positive for past use — even if they consumed marijuana in a state where it was legal. South Dakota appears to be the only state with such an “internal possession” law. In addition, possession of any amount of hash or concentrates is a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Even just possessing drug paraphernalia, like a marijuana pipe, in South Dakota can land you a misdemeanor charge, up to 30 days in prison, and up to a $500 fine.
A study by the American Civil Liberties Union found that South Dakota was among the top 10 states for racial disparities in marijuana possession arrest rates. Despite people of all races using marijuana at very similar rates, blacks in South Dakota are nearly 4.8 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession.
South Dakota allows controlled access to cannabidiol, fails to protect medical cannabis patients
In 2017, South Dakota's legislature enacted the most restrictive and limited of any state law that acknowledges some form of cannabis’ medical value. The law (Senate Bill 95) removed cannabidiol (CBD oil) from the definition of marijuana and made it a Schedule IV controlled substance, if and only if CBD oil was approved by the Food and Drug Administration. (A House committee had approved a version of the bill that would have eliminated the FDA approval requirement.)
In 2018, the FDA approved Epidiolex, a nearly pure pharmaceutical extract of cannabidiol, for Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet Syndromes, types of epilepsy.
Unfortunately, this does not help patients who need some THC in order to get relief for their symptoms, so an effective medical marijuana program is still needed. It also does not help patients who benefit from other types of CBD products or who have other medical conditions.