Advocates submit over 83,000 signatures for 2020 medical marijuana and adult-use legalization ballot initiatives!


Last update: November 8, 2019


One year out from Election Day 2020, the South Dakota campaigns to legalize medical marijuana and adult-use marijuana took a major step towards ballot qualification.

South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws turned in over 53,000 voter signatures to qualify a constitutional adult-use legalization initiative for the 2020 ballot. On the same day, New Approach South Dakota submitted over 30,000 signatures to qualify a statutory medical marijuana initiative for the 2020 ballot. Read more coverage of the turn-in from the Associated Press and Marijuana Moment.

The constitutional initiative requires 33,921 valid signatures, while the statutory initiative requires 16,961 valid signatures. The Secretary of State and his staff will now begin the process of verifying the signatures.

Both initiatives are expected to qualify, but there will be a tough campaign ahead. Despite significant support among a majority of voters, politicians in South Dakota have long resisted efforts to reform the state’s broken marijuana laws. 

Visit the campaign website to follow their progress and consider making a contribution to South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws to ensure the campaign has the resources to achieve victory next year!

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 disparity 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.

In 2017, 15 lawmakers introduced Senate Bill 129, which would have revised the penalty for ingestion of marijuana and undone the uniquely severe law of criminalizing internal possession. Unfortunately, the bill did not make it out of committee. No marijuana policy reform bills were introduced in 2018. Let's make sure that's not the case this year. 

Click here to ask your legislators to treat marijuana possession as civil offense, eliminating jail time for adults who choose to use a substance that is safer than alcohol and the life-changing collateral consequences triggered by a criminal conviction.

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 will not help patientswho need some THC in order to get relief for their symptoms, so an effective medical marijuana program is still needed. It will also not help patients who benefit from other types of CBD products or who have other medical conditions.

Please ask your legislators to support compassionate access to medical marijuana for seriously ill South Dakotans.

Timeline of marijuana reform in South Dakota


1977: During a short-lived wave of decriminalization in the country, South Dakota decriminalized cannabis, but repealed that law "almost immediately" afterward.

2003: In South Dakota v. Matthew Ducheneaux, the state Supreme Court ruled that Mr. Ducheneaux — who was convicted of marijuana possession in 2000 — could not rely on a state necessity defense law that allows illegal conduct when a person is being threatened by unlawful force. The court stated that it would strain the language of the law if it could be used to show that a health problem amounts to unlawful force against a person.

2006: The South Dakota Medical Marijuana Initiative, also known as Initiative 4, was on the November 2006 ballot in South Dakota as an initiated state statute, where it was defeated by a vote of 52-47%. The measure would have allowed persons, including minors with parental consent, with a debilitating medical condition to be certified to grow up to six marijuana plants, possess up to one ounce, and use small amounts of marijuana for medical purposes.

2010: The South Dakota Medical Marijuana Initiative, also known as Initiative 13, was on the November 2010 ballot in South Dakota as an initiated state statute, where it was defeated by a percentage of 63-36%. The measure would have legalized the possession, use, distribution, and cultivation of marijuana by persons registered with the South Dakota Department of Health.

2016: The South Dakota Medical Marijuana Initiative did not make the 2016 ballot in South Dakota as an initiated state statute. The measure would have legalized medical marijuana in South Dakota.

2017: The South Dakota State Senate passed legislation removing cannabidiol from the definition of marijuana and making it a Schedule IV controlled substance and legal to use so long as any recommended CBD oil is approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

2018: Initiatives to legalize medical and adult-use marijuana fail to qualify for the 2018 ballot in South Dakota.

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