As voter-approved medical marijuana program is implemented, activists are organizing to replace adult-use legalization law overturned by South Dakota Supreme Court
Last update: January 18, 2022
In November 2020, voters approved two ballot measures supported by New Approach South Dakota and South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, a ballot initiative campaign spearheaded by MPP. Measure 26, which established a medical cannabis program in the state, was approved by 70% of South Dakotans, while Amendment A, which legalized cannabis for adults, passed by a 54-46% margin.
Soon after the 2020 Election, Gov. Kristi Noem and her allies filed a lawsuit against Amendment A (costing over $140,000 in taxpayer money). Disappointingly, after taking many months to deliberate, the South Dakota Supreme Court issued a 4-1 ruling that overturned the voter-approved adult-use legalization law. The majority’s opinion claimed that the initiative contained more than one subject, because it required the legislature to enact laws regulating hemp and medical cannabis. Advocates defended the measure by arguing that each of the measure’s provisions addressed only a single subject: how to regulate cannabis in South Dakota.
South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws is now collecting signatures to qualify a statutory adult-use legalization initiative for the ballot in 2022. The deadline to submit signatures is May 8. Advocates are also organizing a grassroots lobbying effort to pass a legalization bill through the state legislature this year.
Fortunately, after advocates overcame Gov. Noem’s attempts to delay enactment of Measure 26 through the legislature, the state is proceeding with implementing the medical cannabis law. South Dakotans were able to begin applying for patient certification cards late last year.
South Dakota makes history with voter approval of Amendment A and Measure 26
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 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.