Data Suggests South Dakota Cannabis Initiative Faces Uphill Battle

A new poll found that 54.4% of South Dakota voters disapprove of cannabis legalization ahead of the reforms appearing on state ballots this November.

Full story after the jump.

A recent poll suggests that a majority of South Dakota voters disapprove of cannabis legalization in the state, with 54.4% of respondents opposing the reforms and 43.8% in support, the Argus Leader reports. A question to enact the reforms will appear on November ballots.  

The poll was conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy of Florida on behalf of South Dakota News Watch and the Chiesman Center for Democracy at the University of South Dakota from July 19-22.  

The poll found 27.4% of registered South Dakota voters strongly supported legalization while 16.4% were somewhat supportive. Another 39.4% strongly opposed legalization while 15% were somewhat in opposition, and 1.8% said they were unsure. 

Matthew Schweich, campaign director for South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, the campaign behind the initiative, told the Leader that when he looked “a litter deeper” at the poll some things just didn’t make sense and that some of the numbers “conflict strongly with previous data” seen by the campaign. For example, the July poll showed 38.6% of respondents in the Sioux Falls metro area supported legalization, with 58.0% opposed, but that population showed the highest level of support in the 2020 statewide vote on a question to legalize cannabis, which ultimately passed but was struck down by the state Supreme Court.  

“I see this as a flawed poll, but one that I still need to keep in the back of my head as motivation to keep working hard. I’m not going to dismiss this poll entirely, and it’s a reminder that we have to work really hard and not take anything for granted because in recent times, it’s gotten harder and harder to predict what an electorate will look like.” — Schweich to the Leader

Jim Kinyon, the chairman of opposition group Protecting South Dakota’s Kids, said the poll shows voters in the state are coming to their senses and “starting to see that this isn’t going to make us free and happy.” 

“This stuff attacks the organ of the brain, and our kids and our young adults won’t be better citizens,” he told the Leader. “Our kids are struggling in our state, and we already don’t have adequate resources to help them. We have to defend our kids because they deserve better.” 

In 2020, voters approved both medical and adult cannabis reforms – the first time any state has approved both during one election. The medical cannabis initiative was approved by 70% of voters while the adult-use question was approved 54%-46% but was found by the Supreme Court to be too broad and a violation of state law on ballot questions.

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