A long, dusty road in sunny South Dakota.

Kyle Taylor

Typo Could Derail Legalization Effort in South Dakota

One sentence in the 11-page ballot initiative to legalize cannabis for adult use in South Dakota could doom the entire proposal, according to a CBS News report. The section legalizing paraphernalia addresses the laws of “the state or subdivision” (cities or counties); however, the section legalizing cannabis use doesn’t include “the state or,” just the laws of the subdivision.

The conclusion – that the measure would legalize paraphernalia state-wide but not adult cannabis use – was interpreted by the nonpartisan Legislative Research Council.

Melissa Mentele, director for advocacy group New Approach South Dakota, who are circulating the petitions, indicated the error could be fixed by the Legislature or the courts and she is “not concerned about it at all.”

“It’s just a typo,” she said in the report. “It’s one person’s perception of grammar versus another’s.”

Jason Hancock, Legislative Research Council director, disagrees. He said that the supporters could submit an amended proposal but that would void all existing signatures collected to put the issue to voters in 2018. Advocates must collect 14,000 signatures by November in order to be successful. If they have to submit a new proposal, it could take up to 90 days for the attorney general’s office to publish an explanation, which would make gathering the signatures impossible.

Jesse Kelley, a Marijuana Policy Project attorney who worked on the proposal, indicated that this is “not a new issue” for cannabis ballot measures, noting that in other states advocates have emerged from court victorious.

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