Signature collection nears deadline


Last update: October 13, 2017


New Approach South Dakota came close to putting a measure on the 2016 ballot, falling shy due in part to a notary error. Now, the group is working to put medical marijuana on the 2018 ballot.

Two petitions have been approved for circulation by the Secretary of State’s office — one petition seeks to legalize the drug for medical uses and the other to legalize certain amounts of marijuana for adult use and to regulate and tax marijuana establishments.

Each petition needs 13,871 signatures by November 6, 2017 to make it on the November 2018 ballot. Initiative petitions must be filed in the office of the Secretary of State one year before the general election year. Advocates are working diligently in these final months to secure enough signatures to allow voters to decide the issues of both medical and adult-use marijuana.

New Approach South Dakota has launched a campaign website. Check it out for updates regarding signature collection and opportunities to volunteer.

Current marijuana laws in South Dakota

Marijuana, for both medical and recreational uses, is illegal in South Dakota.

Possessing marijuana in South Dakota will result in heavy fines, if not years of jail time. Possessing two ounces or less of marijuana could result in jail and up to $2,000 in fines. Even just possessing drug paraphernalia in South Dakota can land you a misdemeanor charge, up to 30 days in prison, and up to a $500 fine.

Medical use of CBD oil is allowed with FDA approval.

South Dakota allows controlled access to cannabidiol

The South Dakota State Senate 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 included a requirement that any recommended CBD oil be approved by the Food and Drug Administration, which would indefinitely curtail access to CBD oil in South Dakota.

On March 2, 2017, the House Health and Human Services Committee approved SB 95 by a vote of 7-3 and added an amendment eliminating prior FDA approval with the goal of increasing market availability. However, on March 17, Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed the Senate version of SB 95, which will exclude cannabidiol, if it receives FDA approval, from the definition of marijuana and will classify it as a Schedule IV controlled substance that could be recommended to patients. Relief for qualifying patients might arrive on the scene in South Dakota very soon since the FDA is scheduled to review Epidiolex, a nearly pure extract of cannabidiol, this summer.

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

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.

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.

Recently introduced Senate Bill 129 would revise the penalty for ingestion of marijuana, which would undo the uniquely severe law of criminalizing internal possession. Senate Bill 129 was introduced with a total of 15 sponsors. However, the sponsors have unambiguously stated this is not a first-step toward legalizing marijuana. Nonetheless, if enacted, this bill demonstrates a step toward common sense regulatory laws relating to possession.

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.

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 be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

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