South Dakota voters have approved adult and medical cannabis use – the first time a state has approved both during one election. The recreational measure was approved 53 percent to 47 percent while the medical reforms passed 70 percent to 30 percent.
South Dakota joins Montana as the only states in which voters legalized cannabis while backing a Republican for president.
Amendment A will create a taxed and regulated cannabis marketplace, setting the legal age at 21. The amendment takes effect on July 1.
The medical cannabis reforms – an initiated measure – covers chronic or debilitating diseases or medical conditions; treatments that cause cachexia or wasting syndrome; severe, debilitating pain; severe nausea; and seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis.
The Health Department has 120 days to enact the program’s rules.
Drey Samuelson, political director for South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, the committee behind the amendment, told the Argus Leader that the campaign expected voters “would realize the economic, health and social justice benefits of marijuana reform.”
“No longer will South Dakotans have to potentially face the loss of their jobs, their reputations or their freedom for doing what in 11 other states is perfectly legal.” – Samuelson to the Leader
Both campaigns were opposed by state lawmakers, including Republican Gov. Kristi Noem, and she and the legislature could overturn the medical cannabis law as it’s an initiated measure rather than a constitutional amendment. According to the Rapid City Journal, Noem and the legislature overturned the voter-approved anti-corruption measure IM22 in 2017.
In order to repeal the adult-use reforms – a constitutional amendment – lawmakers would have to initiate their own constitutional amendment process and put it to voters.
David Owen, director of the opposition group No Way on A, told the Leader that the vote sends a message to Noem, the legislature, and the state’s “entire political establishment” that “as the state motto says, under God, the people rule.”
“I think South Dakota voters are thoughtful and you live with the conclusion of the voter,” he said in the report.
The pro-legalization campaigns, led by New Approach and Better Marijuana Laws, raised $1.68 million – mostly via New Approach Pac which contributed $1.37 million in cash and $54,892 in in-kind contributions, according to Ballotpedia. Owen said the opposition group had raised just $130,000 despite support from Noem and Republican lawmakers who comprise the legislative majority.
The recreational use amendment takes effect on July 1.
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