You are here
Home > News > South Dakota Activists Plan New Cannabis Legalization Bill

South Dakota Activists Plan New Cannabis Legalization Bill

Despite the failure of a recreational marijuana legalization measure to gain the approval of a majority of voters in last month’s midterm elections, activists in South Dakota are already planning for a new bid to legalize adult-use cannabis in 2024. 

The group South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws has taken the first official step to launch a new cannabis legalization bid for 2024 by filing a draft of the proposed ballot initiative with the state’s Legislative Research Council, according to media reports. This move is less than two months following the failure of Initiated Measure 27, a legalization initiative for recreational marijuana, in November’s elections. It received just more 47% votes.

Measure 27, if passed would have made it legal to possess and use cannabis paraphernalia and pot. Adults aged 21 or older would also have been allowed to possess and distribute up to 1 ounce of cannabis. Residents of a state without a marijuana dealer license would be allowed to cultivate up to three cannabis plants at their home.

Activists who campaigned for this year’s unsuccessful ballot proposal believe that the lower voter participation typical of midterm elections compared to those that include a race for U.S. president may have been a factor in the defeat of Measure 27.

“We think the only reason it lost is because of really low turnout… we are eager to restore the will of the people,” said Matthew Schweich, deputy director of South Dakotans for Better Marijuana laws, which also led the campaign to pass the 2022 cannabis legalization ballot measure.

Initiative 27 was defeated despite an identical proposal that had won a large majority of votes two years prior, when President Joseph Biden beat Donald Trump at polls. The 2020 initiative to legalize adult-use cannabis was passed by 54%. However, a legal challenge led to invalidation of the measure by the state Supreme Court on procedural grounds.

Cannabis Reform Opponents are Also Preparing to Go For 2024

Opponents to cannabis reform claim that legalization of recreational marijuana has been resolved at the ballots, even though a failed ballot measure was defeated two years ago. Fred Deutsch (Republican state representative) is also the treasurer of Protecting South Dakota Kids cannabis prohibitionist group. He opposes another attempt to legalize pot in the 2024 election.

“They brought it, and they brought it, and they brought it… they said we should respect the will of the voters throughout the campaign,” said Deutsch. “Well, apparently, they are not going to respect the will of the voters… and they are going to bring it back again.” 

Deutsch stated that he will sponsor a bill during the next legislative session to prohibit similar initiatives being put on the ballots in successive election cycles. Protecting South Dakota Kids will also create the nonprofit organization of the same name and employ a lobbyist in the state capital to oppose the reformists working in cannabis.

“This last year in Pierre, the pro-marijuana lobbyists outgunned us five to one, six to one… I didn’t count them, but they were swarming the Capitol,” said Deutsch. “The marijuana industry puts a lot of money into hiring these guys, and we hope to push back just a little bit.”

Another attempt in South Dakota to legalize adult-use marijuana believes that its success will depend on activists’ ability to raise enough money in order to run an efficient race in 2024. Media reports cite “lackluster fundraising” as a factor in this year’s loss.

“The biggest hurdle is making sure you can run a well-funded campaign, and it is too early to say whether we can or can’t,” said Schweich. “But we are going to try and move through the process and build up a network of people who can donate generously and make sure that we do have a well-funded campaign.”