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Poll: South Dakota Legalization Initiative in Danger of Failing

New poll shows that South Dakota’s marijuana legalization plan is very at risk.

The survey, conducted by the pollster Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy on behalf of the local news nonprofit South Dakota News Watch and the Chiesman Center for Democracy at the University of South Dakota, found that a majority of Mount Rushmore State voters are opposed to the legalization of recreational cannabis. 

Just over 54% of voters voted against legalization. Only 44% voted for it.

The polling data represents a potential source of concern for legalization activists in South Dakota, who have expressed confidence that the state’s voters will do what they did in 2020 and approve a recreational cannabis proposal at the ballot.

Amendment A was approved by 54 percent of South Dakota’s voters in 2020. It would have allowed recreational marijuana to be legalized and set the stage for regulation.

The amendment, however, was upheld by the Republican Governor. Kristi Noem was eventually defeated by the state Supreme Court in November.

Organizers quickly went back in the field, ultimately getting a new legalization proposal on this year’s ballot. 

The Initiated Measure 27 proposal has legalized adult possession of marijuana in California, however, it defers to state legislatures on many details.

Matthew Schweich (campaign director, South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws) stated that in May, more than 8,000 signatures were collected by the group, which was sufficient to guarantee that it qualified.

“One of the main reasons why we maintained such ambitious goals for our signature drive was to ensure that we had a healthy margin, so we could deter our opponents from filing a lawsuit,” Schweich told the Argus LeaderAt the time. “This was the plan to have this buffer and be sure there would be no more lawsuits over cannabis initiatives in South Dakota.”

Schweich admitted that he was more confused after last week’s release of the new poll.

“When I look a little deeper, I found things that do not make sense to me,” Schweich told local news station KELO. “Some of the numbers don’t really make sense and conflict strongly with previous data that we’ve seen.”

KELO reported that “Schweich pointed out that certain elements within the News Watch/USD poll do not jibe with past indicators of support for legalization in South Dakota.”

“I see this as a flawed poll, but one that I still need to keep in the back of my head as motivation to keep working hard,” Schweich told KELO. “I’m not going to dismiss this poll entirely, and it’s a reminder that we have to work really hard and not take anything for granted because in recent times, it’s gotten harder and harder to predict what an electorate will look like.”

A poll late last year found that a slim majority of South Dakota voters disapproved of Noem’s handling of cannabis legalization, while only 39% said they approved.

Noem announced that she would implement the new cannabis law at a campaign stop in October if the majority of voters approved Initiated Me 27 in November.

“From what I’ve seen, this amendment this year that will be on the ballot is written more appropriately towards the Constitution,” Noem said, as quoted by the Argus Leader.