June 12, 2024

South Dakotans Fight For Cannabis

Read Time:2 Minute, 37 Second

In the United States the people’s voice and vote has always trumped all. But in South Dakota that might not always be the case. 

The state of South Dakota has some of the harshest marijuana laws in the country. People possessing any form of edibles, hash, and concentrates qualify for a class 4 felony, 10 years imprisonment, and a 20,000 dollar fine. Even just testing positive for cannabis can be a misdemeanor offense. 

In 2020 South Dakotan voters decided it was time for their cannabis policies to catch up with the rest of the country. Amendment A was introduced; the amendment moved to legalize both recreational (Initiated Measure 27) and medical marijuana (Initiated Measure 26) usage. Amendment A won in 25 counties, by 30,000 votes, which is a 54 percent margin win. This would make the state the first ever to approve recreational and medical cannabis at the same time. 

Soon after South Dakota’s Governor Kristi Noem created a tax-payer funded lawsuit in retaliation for the voter approved Amendment A. Noem’s lawsuit attacked the recreational side of the amendment. The lawsuit cited the constitutional legal concept of  the “Single-Subject Rule”. Which states that constitutional law must deal with only one main issue. Noem viewed Amendment A as having two main issues: recreational marijuana and medical marijuana. 

Noem’s lawsuit was successful in bringing down Initiated Measure 27; meaning recreational marijuana would not become legalized. The case was brought to the South Dakota Supreme Court. The South Dakota Supreme Court ruled in favor of the original decision. 

This left Initiated Measure 27 supporters reeling. How could the governor sue the will of the people and how could she use taxpayer money to fund the lawsuit to bring down a measure they voted for and won? The Supreme Court’s decision was a huge blow to the grassroot organizations’ morale. But they wouldn’t give up. 

South Dakotans For Better Marijuana Laws, a pro cannabis lobbyist group, fought hard to get Initiated Measure 27 back on the ballot. Which they successfully did. But their opposition, Protecting South Dakota Kids, an anti-marijuana lobbyist group, had gained steam and funds. 

In November of 2022, Initiated Measure 27 was voted on once again, but it was unsuccessful. The second time around only 8 counties voted in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana, and the measure lost by 20,000 votes. 

South Dakotans For Better Marijuana Laws cited having less funding then their opposition as the reason for the failed measure. Protecting South Dakota Kids spent almost a 100,000 more dollars in advertising than South Dakotans For Better Marjiuana Laws did. Not to mention the governor’s lawsuit had brought the issue to a greater scope. 

While the Department of Health reports 177 approved medical practitioners and 4,634 patient cards, many residents have lost faith in the system. Many had worked extremely hard to allow South Dakota to become a state of change. Just to lose to big government, and right wing politicians. 

Images: Matthew Johnson (Pexels), Ekaterina Bolovtsova (Pexels)

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