Medical marijuana won't appear on 2018 ballot


Last update: July 24, 2018


Last year, New Approach South Dakota submitted around 15,000 signatures for an initiative to make medical marijuana legal. On April 16, the secretary of state announced that the campaign did not turn in enough valid signatures and thus did not qualify or the 2018 ballot.

South Dakota marijuana possession laws may be the nation's harshest


Possession of just a small amount of marijuana in the state 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.

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


South Dakota passed legislation (Senate Bill 95) removing cannabidiol (CBD oil) from the definition of marijuana and making it a Schedule IV controlled substance. Unfortunately, the bill signed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard in March 2017 included a requirement that any recommended CBD oil be approved by the Food and Drug Administration, which delayed relief for patients. (A House committee had approved a version of the bill that would have eliminated the FDA approval requirement.)

Qualifying patients may eventually be able to get some relief, because the FDA is currently reviewing Epidiolex, a nearly pure extract of cannabidiol, which has undergone clinical trials for Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet Syndromes, types of epilepsy. The drug could be available later in 2018. Unfortunately, this will not help patients who need some THC in order to get relief for their symptoms, so an effective medical marijuana program is still needed.

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.

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