SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Once again, South Dakota voters will determine the issue of legalizing marijuana in the state. 

Initiated Measure 27 would legalize marijuana in small amounts for people age 21 and older. On this week’s Inside KELOLAND, representatives in favor of IM 27 and against IM 27 shared their views in a heated, but civil, discussion on the issue. You can watch the full show in the player above.

Matthew Schweich from the “Yes on 27” Campaign and Dr. Bonnie Omdahl represented the group called Protecting South Dakota Kids. Both Omdahl and Schweich provided links to data they referenced during the discussion and you can find those documents attached in this story further below. 

To start, KELOLAND’s Tom Hanson asked both Omdahl and Schweich to outline their group’s perspective on IM 27. 

“Our organization takes the position that marijuana is an incredibly dangerous drug and we know that through a lot of medical research,” Omdahl said. “When you legalize drugs, look at alcohol and tobacco. Does that mean kids don’t get access to it? Of course it doesn’t. And if you look at the states that have legalized it, children’s use has gone up. And that’s our position that it’s a dangerous drug.” 

Schweich responded by saying his campaign believes arresting people for cannabis is a waste of law enforcement time and resources. 

“We think those resources can be spent focused on serious crime,” Schweich said. “We also recognize that it’s still too difficult to access the medical cannabis program here in South Dakota. Veterans, right now, who have a legitimate need for medical cannabis, they’re shut out of the system.” 

Schweich said he believes the illicit market has failed and it would be better to have a system of regulation to limit access to kids for marijuana. 

“I think that dealers don’t check IDs, whereas businesses do,” Schweich said. “In fact, if you look at the studies in Colorado, Washington, both states have reported this year and last year, the teen-use is down since legalization in 2012. We share the same goal in that respect. When we look at the data, which is all on our website, we find a lot of strong reasons to believe that legalization is either not increasing teen use or is actually helping to decrease teen use.” 

Schweich pointed to the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment’s Healthy Kids Colorado Survey. That survey shows marijuana use in the past 30 days from high school and middle school students as 13.3% in 2021, down from 22% in 2011 and middle school use at 3%, down from 6.3% in 2011. 

Omdahl took umbrage with the Colorado Healthy Kids Survey and noted the survey only happened in odd years. She pointed out the survey notes it did not allow some large school districts in Colorado to administer the volunteer survey in some years. 

“So the survey that I cite has to do with the National Drug Use Survey, which is five times the number of respondents and it shows a steady increase in youth use in legalized states,” Omdahl said. “It’s the study that’s used not only by the Medical Association’s but also by the Hudson Institute and by the High Intensity Drug trafficking area group, which is a government arm that deals with drug enforcement.” 

Schweich encouraged people to view the data, which dates back to 2005 before marijuana was legalized in Colorado in 2012.  

Submitted data and facts

Yes on IM 27 data and facts: 

Protecting South Dakota Kids data and facts.

Did passing medical marijuana reduce interest in recreational marijuana in 2022? 

Schweich said he doesn’t believe voters were confused in 2020. 

“I do not think that passage of medical hurts our chances,” Schweich said. 

Omdahl said she disagrees and added she believes voters were led to believe both medical and recreational marijuana measures needed to pass. 

“Let’s take a good long look at this bill, as it’s written as to whether it fulfills the will of the people of South Dakota,” Omdahl said. “There is no chance in South Dakota for any community to opt out. Sioux Falls, Lemmon, White River, Spearfish, there is no chance for any community to opt out. Where’s the will of the people for local control?” 

Schweich responded saying IM 27 doesn’t include any regulated sales of marijuana and has nothing to do with the marijuana industry. 

“I absolutely support down the road, if there’s an implementation bill, giving local control to communities when it comes to businesses,” Schweich said. “There are no businesses in measure 27.” 

Schweich asked Omdahl where IM 27 related to industry and Omdahl said to look under section 34. Schweich responded to Omdahl pointing out IM 27 is only six sections long.

“You made the comment that there was no reference to industry in there. I disagree with that,” Omdahl said. “I think there is reference to industry in there, because it talks about legalizing the pot shops and what they need to do.” 

Schweich said there is a provision regarding home cultivation. 

“If you live in a municipality that allows legal sales down the road, then you wouldn’t be permitted to cultivate,” Schweich said. “I can tell you why it was written that way. It was a compromise. We wanted to have some type of home cultivation provision in the initiative. It’s the most conservative home cultivation provision you will find in any state that allows it.”

Closing arguments

In closing remarks, Omdahl said she believes marijuana is an incredibly dangerous drug. 

“We aren’t talking about the 70s marijuana, we were talking about potencies up to 90%,” Omdahl said. “I disagree with Matt, it’s going to increase the use by children in this community. These are unacceptably high risks, it’s not going to bring in money, it’s going to cost money. Don’t vote for this. This gives an open permission slip to the marijuana industry.” 

Schweich said IM 27 would not create a cannabis industry in South Dakota but uphold freedom. 

“My opponents think that the government should make the decision for you as an adult,” Schweich said. “I think you’re responsible enough to make that decision for yourself.”

Schweich also said the other 19 states that have legalized marijauan have not repealed the law. 

“If my opponents were right, or even half right, wouldn’t one of these 19 states have even taken one step towards repeal?” Schweich asked. “Instead, there’s been no movement towards repeal. And the reason is because the policy is working.” 

What role does Federal law play? 

IM 27 would legalize substances considered felony controlled substances under state law. Marijuana remains illegal under Federal law, but President Joe Biden recently announced he wants the administrative process to review expeditiously how marijuana is scheduled under federal law, where it is classified Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the classification meant for the most dangerous substances. 

Early voting is underway, the voter registration deadline is Oct. 24 and Election Day is Nov. 8.