PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A statewide vote on legalizing recreational marijuana in South Dakota for people age 21 and older might be on the November election ballot once again.
And there might be not just one but two proposals that would expand eligibility for Medicaid so that more people could qualify for government-subsidized healthcare.
Backers of the marijuana and Medicaid measures carried boxes of signed petitions into the South Dakota secretary of state office on Tuesday afternoon, just hours ahead of the 5 p.m. deadline.
Each initiated measure must have at least 16,961 valid signatures of registered South Dakota voters to get on the November 8 ballot.
Random samples of signatures now will be checked to see whether each proposal qualifies.
South Dakota voters in 2020 approved two marijuana measures. IM 26 legalizing medical marijuana passed with nearly 70% support. Amendment A legalizing recreational marijuana had 54% support. Governor Kristi Noem challenged the legality of Amendment A and the South Dakota Supreme Court ruled in her favor, declaring it invalid.
That led the group South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws to take another run at recreational marijuana. Campaign director Matthew Schweich said Tuesday their circulators collected signatures from about 19,250 registered South Dakota voters for their 2022 attempt.
“So we have a nice buffer. We feel confident we’re going to qualify,” Schweich told KELOLAND News.
Amendment A was a constitutional amendment that the Legislature couldn’t change without asking for another statewide vote. The recreational marijuana measure filed Tuesday proposes a state law, which the Legislature could repeal or change.
Despite voters passing Amendment A, state lawmakers have refused to legalize recreational marijuana.
Rick Weiland of Sioux Falls brought in roughly 23,000 signatures for his Medicaid expansion measure that would raise the eligibility threshold to at least 133% of the federal poverty level. His measure too proposes a state law which the Legislature could overturn.
There’s already a constitutional amendment proposed on the November ballot that would expand Medicaid eligibility to at least 133% of the federal poverty level.
The Legislative Research Council estimates that each of the Medicaid measures would make about 42,500 more people eligible and cost nearly $302 million per year, with state government paying nearly $21 million and the federal government paying the rest.
“People are more apt to vote for a law than they are changing the constitution,” Weiland said. He added, “People are just a little bit suspect about changing the constitution.”
Schweich said the marijuana group’s attention now will turn toward trying to defeat Amendment C that’s on the June primary ballot.
Amendment C would require future ballot measures such as Medicaid expansion to get at least 60% support, if the measure would raise taxes, or would spend at least $10 million in one year in any of the first five years after the measure takes effect.
Republicans in the Legislature put C on the June ballot. The South Dakota Republican Party’s central committee has formally endorsed its passage.
Schweich said his gut — and citizens’ reactions when he’s had time to explain it — tells him C will lose.
“People are being told it’s about taxes. That’s not true,” Schweich said. “It’s about power and control, and there’s already deep mistrust of the political establishment in the state among many, many voters. And so once we point that out, what Amendment C really is, I think we can defeat it, I really do.”