SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakotans will once again vote on whether or not to legalize recreational marijuana this fall.
Initiated Measure 27 would legalize “the possession, use, and distribution of marijuana” for people who are at least 21 years old. On opposite sides of the question are the Yes on 27 campaign and an effort called Protecting South Dakota Kids.
“We’ve interviewed law enforcement agents that have been responsible for thousands of arrests on serious drug crime, they say of all the people they’ve interviewed, not one of them started on anything other than marijuana,” said Bob Fischer of Rapid City, who serves as secretary with Protecting South Dakota Kids. “So this is the gateway drug that people do start on, and this is what leads to higher drug use, more serious drug use, the cocaine, the heroin.”
According to the CDC, researchers are not in agreement that marijuana is a gateway drug. The CDC also says that developing brains “are especially susceptible to the harmful effects of marijuana.”
“When you have a negative impact on people’s brains like this drug does and particularly what it does to children, they won’t have the freedom of education,” said Jim Kinyon, who is chair of Protecting South Dakota Kids.
“Cannabis prohibition is not working, it’s not achieving anything,” said Matt Schweich, campaign manager for Yes on 27. “So let’s try a different approach that doesn’t end up with people having their lives ruined or disrupted by a cannabis conviction.”
Schweich says his side is advocating for freedom. He spoke with KELOLAND News on Friday about what he sees as the benefits of a legal market.
“Cannabis prohibition takes a whole bunch of people and exposes them to harder drugs through the illicit market, and that is a major public health and public safety benefit of legalization,” Schweich said. “A whole bunch of people no longer have a need to go to that illicit market, now they can go to a regulated business and never encounter any more dangerous substances.”
54% of voters in 2020 approved Constitutional Amendment A, which would have legalized marijuana. However, the South Dakota Supreme Court decided last November that the amendment was invalid.