South Dakota makes history with voter approval of Amendment A and Measure 26
Last update: November 5, 2020
On Election Day, South Dakota became the first state to adopt medical marijuana and legalize marijuana for adults in the same election. With 54% of voters approving and 46% opposed, Constitutional Amendment A came out ahead by 35,000 votes and put the state on a path to regulating and taxing marijuana for people 21 and older. Measure 26, which will establish a medical marijuana program in the state, won with a 70% to 30% margin. Both measures will become effective on July 1, 2021.
The Marijuana Policy Project played a key role in leading the successful effort, which was spearheaded by two campaign committees, South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws and New Approach South Dakota. This victory — along with other marijuana policy reform wins around the country this year — could have implications for reform at the federal level.
“A few years ago, nobody would have predicted that South Dakota would legalize marijuana before New York,” MPP deputy director Matthew Schweich said. “But that’s the power of the ballot initiative process.”
South Dakota will vote on medical marijuana and adult-use legalization in November!
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 a constitutional initiative to tax and regulate marijuana and working alongside New Approach South Dakota, which is supporting a statutory medical marijuana measure. Both initiatives work together and support one another. Polling suggests cannabis policy reform enjoys strong support among South Dakota voters. In June, the campaigns rolled out over 50 endorsements for their initiatives from leaders with backgrounds in health care, business, and politics.
Don’t sit on the sidelines! Please support and get involved in this historic effort if you can. And sign up for our email alerts to get the latest news out of South Dakota!
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.