At least one pot proposal might be on South Dakota’s 2020 ballot

Capitol News Bureau
KELO Voting6

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — An initiated measure that would let people age 21 and older possess, grow, sell and distribute marijuana in South Dakota has taken the first steps toward the 2020 election ballot.

It also would allow someone younger than 21 use marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation. Secretary of State, Steve Barnett approved it for circulation for signatures March 5.

State Legislative Research Council Director, Jason Hancock estimated its fiscal impact as a net savings of $3.1 million annually for state and local governments, after prison and jail costs were subtracted, and regulatory and Medicaid costs were added. 

John Dale of Spearfish is the sponsor. He needs at least 16,961 valid signatures of South Dakota registered voters to get it on the ballot.

During the 2019 legislative session, Governor Kristi Noem vetoed an industrial-hemp measure that had passed both chambers. She said it would be a gateway to attempts to legalize marijuana.

Approximately two-thirds of states in the nation have either legalized pot in some fashion, even though it remains a federal crime.

In South Dakota, two other pot proposals are still at earlier stages in the process.

Melissa Mentele of Emery had Hancock’s agency review a 40-page plan for medical marijuana use. He replied to her on April 26. She hasn’t formally submitted a petition for secretary of state approval.

Mentele also has offered a full legalization measure. This version calls for a tax, but Hancock said it could run afoul of the South Dakota Constitution.

“The constitution does not provide for any appropriation-special or general-by initiated measure. To avoid this constitutional question, we recommend removing section 34 of the measure,” Hancock wrote in his April 26 response.

Hancock told Mentele his office would estimate fiscal impacts when she submits a final version of one or both measures.

The 2010 election was the most recent occasion when a marijuana issue was on the statewide ballot, with 63 percent of voters opposed to legalizing medical marijuana.

A medical marijuana measure in 2006 also failed with 52 percent opposed.

An effort to legalize industrial hemp in 2002 failed with 62 percent opposed.

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