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South Dakota Pot Legalization Initiative Qualifies for November Ballot

The South Dakota Secretary of State announced on Wednesday that a ballot measure to legalize cannabis for adults has received enough verified signatures to qualify for the November election, giving the state’s voters another chance to legalize recreational pot at the ballot box. Secretary of State Steve Barnett also announced that the proposal sponsored by the group South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws (SDBML) will be titled Initiated Measure 27 for this year’s general election.

The Secretary of State’s office reported that the SDBML campaign had collected a total 31,588 signatures. A random analysis of signatures revealed that approximately 79.2% of them were validly identified as being from South Dakota. The results from the random sampling showed that 25,023 signatures were found to be valid. This is far higher than the 16.961 required signatures in order for a measure to go on the ballot.

“We are very pleased that we’ve qualified for the ballot and we are extremely thankful to everyone who signed our petitions, our volunteers, our staff and our supporters,” SDBML director Matthew Schweich told the Argus Leader. “We look forward to being on the ballot in November and we’re confident we can win again and restore the will of the people of [S]outh Dakota.”

The proposal would allow adults 21 years old and over to purchase up to 1 ounce of marijuana and to grow up to 3 cannabis plants at their home. While public consumption and cultivation of more cannabis plants than three would be illegal, violators will only face civil sanctions.

Succeeding 2020 Ballot Measures Struck Down South Dakota

Amendment A was the more complete ballot measure that South Dakota voters approved in 2020. However, after legal challenges by Republican Governor Kristi Nommem (an opponent to legalizing recreational marijuana), the ballot measure was declared unconstitutional.

Like Amendment A and Initiated Me 27, it does not seek to set a legal framework for cannabis production, sales, or taxation. Instead, this year’s ballot measure legalizes possession and purchases of cannabis and leaves the details up to state lawmakers. The activists hope the additional signatures of more than 8000 will discourage opponents from filing legal action to block legalization.

“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 said. “This was the plan to have this buffer and be sure there would be no more lawsuits over cannabis initiatives in South Dakota.”

A proposal for legalizing recreational cannabis in South Dakota is on the ballot next month, which poses a problem. Amendment C would make it necessary for future ballot measures to get 60% approval if they were to adopt a tax, or require that the state allocate $10 million more within the next five years. Amendment C, if passed by voters during the June primary elections, would be in effect before the November General Election. Uncertain is the impact that this could have on Initiated Measure 27.

“We must defeat Amendment C on June 7,” Schweich said. “Amendment C is a shameful and cowardly attack on the constitutional ballot initiative rights of the people of South Dakota. The convoluted plan was created by politicians. [the South Dakota capital of]Pierre has the potential of destroying the initiative and could be used to stop our 2022 cannabis legalization bill. We cannot allow politicians to get away with this.”