SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Jim Kinyon didn’t get involved in the fight against Amendment A in 2020. 

Working as a mental health counselor and executive director of Catholic Social Services in Rapid City, Kinyon said he couldn’t stand aside for Initiated Measure 27. IM 27, which will appear on South Dakota ballots this fall, would legalize marijuana in small amounts for those people age 21 or older.  

“There’s a wolf out there that’s trying to sell this product and pushing it. They do it in the name of liberty and happiness,” Kinyon told KELOLAND News. “A lot of the families that I’ve worked with over the years are outstanding people who have been disabled by the drug industry.” 

Kinyon is serving as the Chairman of Protecting South Dakota Kids, which filed paperwork with the secretary of state’s office as a statewide ballot question committee in July. Fred Deutsch, a Republican state lawmaker from Florence, is the committee treasurer.

The group launched a website to encourage South Dakotans to vote against IM 27. Kinyon is most worried about legal marijuana’s impact on kids, even though IM 27 only legalizes marijuana for people age 21 or older. 

“It will double our use rates of our kids in our community,” Kinyon said. “It’s detrimental to their mental health, it’s detrimental to their academic performance, it is detrimental for their long-term ability to step in and provide leadership in our state.” 

A new National Institutes of Health study supports some Kinyon’s worries. It shows marijuana use in 2021 by young adults ages 19 to 30 years old is at an all-time high. 

“The proportion of young adults who reported past-year marijuana use reached 43% in 2021, a significant increase from 34% five years ago (2016) and 29% 10 years ago (2011),” the study stated. Daily marijuana use was reported at 11% for young adults. 

The same study reported on alcohol use, showing ”in 2021, 66% of young adults reported alcohol use in the past 30 days, a significant decline from 70% recorded in 2016 and 69% in 2011.”

Proponents of IM 27 have said the measure is about having personal freedom and making sure someone possessing small amounts of marijuana doesn’t make them a criminal. 

Matthew Schweich leads the organization South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws and is the campaign manager for the Yes on 27 Campaign. He told KELOLAND News he’s heard from law enforcement officers across the state that support legalized marijuana. 

“There are a lot of police officers who are sick and tired of wasting their time on cannabis arrests,” Schweich said. “We want police to be focused on real crime.”   

Out-of-state vs. in-state

Kinyon stressed he was worried IM 27 was being funded by out-of-state marijuana lobbyist groups.  

In 2020, Amendment A received support from South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws which reported total income of $900,891 at the end of 2019 and $647,919 at the end of 2020. Most of it came from a Washington D.C. based group called New Approach PAC.  

For 2022, South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws has reported $47,322 raised by the end of May with $126,000 donated for signature collection work. 

Both South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws and Protecting South Dakota Kids will have file campaign finance reports by October 24. 

The sponsors behind IM 27 are South Dakotans: Tim Billion, Brendan Johnson and Melissa Mentele.  

2020 vote vs. 2022 vote 

In 2020, Amendment A passed with 54% of the vote. After Gov. Kristi Noem challenged the new law in court, the South Dakota Supreme Court ruled Amendment A violated the single-subject rule in November 2021. 

Schweich said the delays from the Supreme Court ruling impacted what the group could put in IM 27 and that’s why the measure just legalizes small amounts of marijuana for people age 21 or older. 

In 2022, the South Dakota Senate voted 18-17 in favor of a bill that would have legalized marijuana. The House voted 40-28 to kill the bill.  

When asked how his group can change the minds of the 54% of South Dakotans who voted in favor of Amendment A, Kinyon pointed to votes in 2006 and 2010 where voters voted against legal marijuana-related ballot measures. 

“This isn’t inevitable and that’s what they’d like us all to believe that we just have to accept the evil that they’re about to do to our community,” Kinyon said. “Give me a chance to talk to the moms and dads of our state. Let me ask them if they want twice the number of kids that are going to their school to be on marijuana. That’s what this bill is about.”