South Dakota to vote on medical marijuana in 2020

On December 19, the South Dakota Secretary of State’s office announced that New Approach South Dakota’s initiative to establish a medical marijuana program had qualified for the ballot. The group reported submitting more than 30,000 signatures in November, of which 25,524 were deemed valid. To qualify, 16,961 signatures were required.

The measure would establish a medical marijuana program in South Dakota for individuals who have a debilitating medical condition and are certified by a physician. Under the measure, a debilitating medical condition means, “A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces one or more of the following: cachexia or wasting syndrome; severe, debilitating pain; severe nausea; seizures; or severe and persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis.” The measure provides that the Department of Health could add additional qualifying conditions.

Medical marijuana patients would be able to possess three ounces of marijuana as well as additional amounts of other types of marijuana products. Patients would be able to possess three marijuana plants and products made from the plants.

The attorney general’s explanation stated, “The 95-section measure contains numerous other provisions not described here. It will likely require judicial or legislative clarification.”

South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, a group sponsoring a separate measure to legalize recreational marijuana, reported submitting more than 50,000 signatures on November 4, 2019, and are awaiting validation from the Secretary of State. That measure was designed to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. It would also require the legislature to pass laws providing for the use of medical marijuana and the sale of hemp by April 1, 2022. In South Dakota, if there are two conflicting ballot measures on the same ballot, and both are approved, the one that receives the most yes votes supersedes the other in areas of conflict.

As of 2019, 33 states and Washington, D.C., had passed laws legalizing or decriminalizing medical marijuana. Additionally, 13 states had legalized the use of cannabis oil, or cannabidiol (CBD)—one of the non-psychoactive ingredients found in marijuana—for medical purposes. As of 2019, 11 states and Washington, D.C., had legalized the possession and personal use of marijuana for recreational purposes.

Also set to appear on the 2020 ballot is a marijuana legalization amendment in New Jersey that would legalize the possession and use of marijuana for persons age 21 and older and legalize the cultivation, processing, and sale of retail marijuana. The New Jersey constitutional amendment is the first marijuana legalization measure that a state legislature has referred to voters. In Illinois and Vermont, the state legislatures passed bills to legalize marijuana without ballot measures. The other nine states (and D.C.) that have legalized marijuana did so through the ballot initiative process, in which proponents collected signatures to place their issues before voters. There is no initiative process in New Jersey.

Measures concerning medical marijuana targeting the 2020 ballot have been proposed in Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, and Nebraska. Measures to legalize marijuana for recreational use have been proposed targeting the 2020 ballot in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Oklahoma.

From 1996 through 2018, a total of 74 measures have appeared on the ballot during even-numbered election years in South Dakota, of which, 39% were approved and 61% were defeated.

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About the author

Jackie Mitchell

Jackie Mitchell is a state ballot measures staff writer at Ballotpedia and can be reached at jackie.mitchell@ballotpedia.org

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