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S.D. Activists File 4 Legalization Initiatives After Vote Nullified

South Dakota Cannabis advocates are refusing to give up —even after voter-approved legalization was struck down in court

NORML

South Dakota voters made it clear at the ballot box last year that they want to legalize Cannabis. That settles that, right? Apparently not, so activists have now filed four more legalization initiatives for the 2022 ballot.

If the South Dakota Supreme Court declines to overturn a February Circuit Court ruling that nullified last year’s marijuana legalization initiative, activists are going to be ready. They plan to go all-in on the ballot initiative process again. Activists’ goal is to ensure that the reform is enacted in 2022, reports Marijuana Moment.

They filed four separate legalization measures last week with the state Legislative Research Council. This is the first step toward putting the issue before voters next year.

Getting The Process Rolling

Sponsors will drop the proposals if Amendment A is fully restored by the state’s high court, according to South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws. It was, of course, already approved by voters last year. In a fully functioning democracy, that would have been the end of it. But for now, they’re getting the process rolling in case the South Dakota Supreme Court doesn’t uphold the will of the electorate.

The four initiatives share some basic provisions. They each, however, take a unique approach to the policy change. There’s also a fifth measure that the group is backing which would eliminate a single-subject rule for the ballot process. That’s the policy that led a state judge to deem the 2020 recreational measure unconstitutional.

“I’m proud to be a sponsor of these initiatives because they represent the will of the voters,” Melissa Mentele said. Mentele spearheaded a separate medical marijuana legalization initiative last year. Voters overwhelmingly approved it. “South Dakotans support Cannabis legalization,” she said. “If Amendment A is repealed, then we need to be prepared to put legalization on the ballot again.”

Tim Johnson, a former U.S. attorney, is also a sponsor of the new measures.

South Dakota Up Against The Clock

South Dakota’s ballot laws mean activists are up against the clock to get any of the measures approved for circulation. The next step beyond that will be to collect enough signatures to qualify. They will only pursue putting one of the cannabis-related initiatives on the ballot if Amendment A remains overturned.

The initiatives must make it through the Legislative Research Council. They must then be okayed by the state attorney general and secretary of state. At that point, advocates will have until November 8 to collect at least 33,921 valid signatures for a constitutional proposal and 16,961 for a statutory measure.

South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws is supporting two measures of each kind. Here’s what each of the four legalization proposals would do, from Marijuana Moment:

Constitutional Approach 1

  • Possession of up to one ounce would be legal for adults 21 and older.
  • People could grow up to three plants for personal use. For households with more than one adult, there would be a six-plant cap.
  • The legislature required to develop regulations for licensing of retail sale, cultivation, processing and testing.
  • Public consumption banned and punishable by a civil fine.
  • Employers not prevented from imposing restrictions on workers’ marijuana use.

Constitutional Approach 2

  • Possession of up to one ounces would be legal for adults 21 and older.
  • People could grow up to three plants for personal use. For households with more than one adult, there would be a six-plant cap.
  • Retail sales not legalized. It wouldn’t prevent lawmakers from enacting commercialization later.
  • Public consumption banned and punishable by a civil fine.
  • Employers not prevented from imposing restrictions on workers’ marijuana use.

Statutory Approach 1

  • Possession of up to one ounces would be legal for adults 21 and older.
  • People could grow up to three plants for personal use. For households with more than one adult, there would be a six-plant cap. People could not cultivate their own plants, however, if they lived in a jurisdiction that has marijuana retailers.
  • The Department of Revenue would be responsible for developing regulations and issuing cannabis business licenses.
  • Regulators would have until July 1, 2023 to issue rules for the program.
  • They would have to approve enough licenses to mitigate the influence of the illicit market, but not so many that the industry becomes oversaturated.
  • A 15 percent excise tax on marijuana sales.
  • After covering the costs of implementation, half of the remaining tax revenue would go to the state’s public schools and the other half would go to the general fund.
  • Localities would be able to opt out of allowing cannabis businesses to operate in their jurisdiction.
  • Public consumption banned and punishable by a civil fine.
  • Employers not prevented from imposing restrictions on workers’ marijuana use.

Statutory Approach 2

  • Possession of up to one ounces would be legal for adults 21 and older.
  • People could grow up to three plants for personal use. For households with more than one adult, there would be a six-plant cap.
  • Sales not legalized by this measure. Oddly, home cultivation only allowed in jurisdictions that don’t have retailers. Lawmakers would be able to enact commercialization later, however.
  • Public consumption banned and punishable by a civil fine.
  • Employers not prevented from imposing restrictions on workers’ marijuana use.

‘We Remain Hopeful’

The South Dakota Supreme Court must fully restore Amendment A, Schweich said. That’s the only way activists will drop the new initiatives. Schweich is deputy director of Marijuana Policy Project and campaign director of South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws.

Activists need to return to the ballot next year if Amendment A is struck down. According to Schweich, the group is “filing these initiatives now because the deadline for completing a signature drive is quickly approaching.”

“We remain hopeful that the South Dakota Supreme Court will make the right decision and restore Amendment A,” Schweich said. But he said activists are preparing for other potential outcomes. “These four cannabis legalization initiatives represent different approaches that could accommodate different rulings in the Amendment A case,” he said.

Only one initiative will be advanced to the ballot, Schweich said.

South Dakota At Least Has Medical Marijuana

Advocates remain frustrated over the February ruling that invalidated the 2020 adult-use legalization initiative. Voters, however, approved a separate medical Cannabis measure. The law took effect last week.

Technically, medical marijuana cardholders can now legally have up to three ounces of cannabis. But that’s only true if they have a valid registration card. Regulators have until November 18 to begin issuing those.

Patients who have an out-of-state medical marijuana card or one issued by a tribe of which they are a member, however, can now legally possess cannabis without arrest. The South Dakota Highway Patrol issued that  guidance last week. The same guidance says no arrests will occur if patients have less than three ounces along with medical documentation.

Home cultivation of up to six medical marijuana plants is also now legal for cardholders. That policy change, of course, also requires the actual issuance of cards.