This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: An organization called Protecting South Dakota Kids has filed paperwork with the secretary of state’s office as a statewide ballot question committee. 

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Matthew Schweich is hoping small amounts of marijuana will be legal in South Dakota by July 2023. 

That’s when Initiated Measure 27 would go into effect if more than 50% of registered South Dakota voters vote yes. Schweich, who leads the organization South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, is serving as the campaign manager for the Yes on 27 Campaign.   

“I would describe Measure 27 as cannabis legalization for the individual, Schweich told KELOLAND News. “It does not include licensing regulations, taxation; it’s really about personal freedom and ensuring that small amounts of cannabis do not make you a criminal.” 

Along with Amendment D, IM 27 will be on the ballot for the midterm election set for Tuesday, November 8. Unlike Amendment A, which was passed by voters in 2020 and struck down by the South Dakota Supreme Court after Gov. Kristi Noem challenged the law, IM 27 would have little impact on state revenues. As it is written, IM 27 is only six sections to legalize marijuana in small amounts for those people age 21 or older.  

Schweich said he doesn’t believe South Dakota voters were confused in 2020 and he believes IM 27 will be even more popular than the 54% of the vote Amendment A received in 2020. 

“It’s a very simple, short initiative,” Schweich said. “It was our opponents who constantly said the voters didn’t understand what they were voting on, which I think is insulting to the voters of South Dakota.” 

To start ramping up for Election Day, the Yes on 27 Campaign has launched an online store for people to buy hats and T-shirts with the money going towards the campaign. Yes on 27 Campaign signs have also started to go up in Sioux Falls and Schweich distribution of signs throughout the state is starting.   

“We’ve had over 700 requests and we’re a small team, so it’s taken us a little time,” Schweich said. “It shows how strong the support is all across South Dakota for IM 27. This isn’t a taboo issue anymore. People like to be proud of their support for Measure 27.” 

According to the secretary of state’s website, an opposition statewide ballot question committee formed against IM 27 in late July.

On July 27, a group called Protecting South Dakota Kids submitted paperwork with the secretary of state’s office as a statewide ballot question committee. The group lists Jim Kinyon as the committee chair and Fred Deutsch as the committee treasurer. 

Deutsch, a Republican from Florence, is a member of the South Dakota House of Representatives. According to the group’s website, “legal marijuana will destroy our communities.” 

“Protecting South Dakota Kids is a grassroots coalition made up of concerned citizens, healthcare professionals, pastors, educators, treatment providers, law enforcement and other professionals,” the website says.

Schweich said it’s been clear people involved in government have backed away from marijuana and cannabis policies. 

“Quite a few politicians, including Governor Noem, have realized that disrespecting the will of the people is not a great political strategy,” Schweich said. “We want to earn every vote we can and we want to exceed the 54% outcome in 2020.” 

Defending IM 27 after the election

Schweich said many of IM 27’s selling points to voters will be the same as the legal marijuana issues discussed with Amendment A. He said police shouldn’t be focused on small amounts of cannabis.  

“We’re going to be using the same arguments before and then the added argument this time around is let’s restore the will of the people,” Schweich said. 

Schweich said the seven months it took for the South Dakota Supreme Court to issue a ruling on Amendment A hurt IM 27. He said the delays in 2021 interfered in the 2022 election because when the ruling was issued it was too late to use anything from the ruling in a new initiative. 

“We just had to pick the most conservative cautious approach,” Schweich said. 

What will happen to IM 27 if it passes? That question, Schweich said he is asked about often. 

“If you read the ruling from the South Dakota State Supreme Court on the Amendment A case, there’s nothing in that ruling that poses a threat to measure 27,” Schweich said. “I tell people, we need your support. If you’re upset about what happened to Amendment A then get out there and vote make sure your friends and family vote.”