PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Medical marijuana businesses very much want it. Conservative business people very much don’t.
That’s where the two sides stand on Initiated Measure 27 that would legalize recreational marijuana in South Dakota for people age 21 and older. Voters statewide will decide its fate in the November 8 general election.
The measure’s sponsors are somewhat familiar names in recent chapters of South Dakota’s marijuana wars.
Brendan Johnson, a Sioux Falls attorney and a son of retired U.S. Senator Tim Johnson, led the fight for Amendment A that voters approved two years ago and the South Dakota Supreme Court later overturned. Melissa Mentele of Emery led the effort to pass IM 26 two years ago that turned out nearly 70% support for legalized medical marijuana in South Dakota.
The pre-election campaign-finance reports filed in late October show who’s put money into the IM 27 fight as each side works to drive its messaging home.
The organization behind the new measure, South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws Inc., reported $492,647.78 of income, plus $102,715.24 in donated goods or services; and $262,135.34 of expenses, including $209,247.29 for advertising, with a balance of $230,512.44.
John Herting of Watertown gave the largest amount among individuals at $10,625.67, while the Cannabis Industry Association of South Dakota political action committee put in $14,500, and the Pac’n Heat political action committee chaired by former legislator Deb Peters of Hartford contributed $9,900. (Peters lobbied at the 2022 legislative session for Cannabis Chem Lab of Dell Rapids.)
The main opposition group, Protecting South Dakota Kids, reported $427,186.03 of income, plus $7,344.36 in donated goods or services, and $351,740.49 of expenses, including $309,669.81 for advertising, with a balance of $75,445.54.
Jim Kinyon, executive director for Catholic Social Services in Rapid City, chairs Protecting South Dakota Kids. Its largest contribution reported was $25,000 from the campaign account of former Governor Dennis Daugaard.
The no side also received three $10,000 donations from South Dakota Police Chief’s Association, the Contractors of South Dakota political action committee chaired by Gary Johnson of A-G-E Corporation Contractors in Fort Pierre, and the Next Generation Leadership political action committee that Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken chairs.
Since the pre-election reports, supplemental reports show Protecting Kids has received more than $50,000 of additional contributions, while Better Marijuana Laws has received more than $42,000.
The 2022 campaign has been more evenly funded than Amendment A was in 2020.
That year David Owen from the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Industry chaired the No Way on Amendment A ballot question committee that spent about $250,000 trying to stop it. Meanwhile, the main committee supporting A, South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, spent more than $1.5 million.