Putting marijuana on the ballot again: The new petition to make sure SD voters are heard

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A year ago voters approved it, today they’re still working around the clock to make lawmakers in South Dakota implement it.

Supporters of recreational marijuana are now circulating a new petition to put the issue back on the ballot in 2022 if all other legislative options fail to come to fruition.

“Hi, are you a registered South Dakota voter?” a campaign volunteer asked a potential petition signer. 
Two years ago, hundreds of volunteers and thousands of registered voters spent hours petitioning to legalize marijuana.

“We knew that voters wanted these policies. The ballot initiative process was the way to achieve them because politicians weren’t listening to constituents on the issue of cannabis,” Amendment A & IM 26 campaign manager Matthew Schweich said. 

Schweich and other supporters say many politicians still aren’t listening to their constituents, as the state challenged the recreational amendment all the way to the Supreme Court, even though 54 percent of South Dakota voters approved it.  The justices have yet to rule on whether the measure can become law.

“It’s frustrating to think, I went out, I voted, I rallied people, and it just seemed like it was all for nothing,” petition signer Chrissy Johnson said. 

It’s a frustration shared by thousands who are now lining up to make sure state leaders get the message loud and clear.

“I’m mostly upset that the voters weren’t heard,” Johnson said. 

“All different types of people have been coming in here with different political beliefs, united by the principal that the will of the people needs to be respected in South Dakota,” Schweich said. “If voters approve ballot initiatives, those should be respected and upheld. It’s amazing to see how many people have gotten engaged. If there’s a silver lining to be found in any of this, it’s that lots of people are getting engaged in the political process.”

Campaign leaders behind Amendment A have now put together another petition drive with a new initiative.

“We’ve written a different initiative so that if we pass this, they can’t take it to court,” Schweich said. “But now because it’s a statutory initiative that means the legislature or governor could try to change it.”

It’s why the campaign is hopeful they won’t have to put the issue back on the ballot in 2022. 

“If we have to go back to the ballot with this use I’m extremely confident that we’ll win, but we’d rather not do that because the people have already spoken on this issue,” he said. 

Schweich says the hope is that the Supreme Court will rule in favor of Amendment A.

“I believe Amendment A will be upheld in its entirety,” Schweich said. “But we don’t know that for sure and we don’t know when the South Dakota Supreme Court is going to issue a ruling.”

If the ruling doesn’t come down in their favor or by the 2022 legislative session, Amendment A supporters hope that state lawmakers will pass their own measure approving recreational marijuana to respect the will of constituents.

“It was a personal attack; I felt like maybe you don’t think we were intelligent enough,” Johnson said. “Why wasn’t our will being carried out? Why are we having to go through these extra measures?”

Many marijuana supporters are beyond frustrated and losing faith in the state’s democratic system.

“I understand why people are losing faith in their political process,” Schweich said. “I tell those people to not lose faith and keep working hard. The other side wants you to give up, the other side wants you to not take the time to sign this petition.”

Even after years of work, Schweich and other supporters are not giving up their legislative fight. They’re now working to collect more than 17,000 petition signatures by November 8th to let the voters speak again in 2022 if lawmakers don’t act on their own. 

“I don’t think we should have to be here I mean we voted once….I think this is a waste of resources and something we shouldn’t have to do right now,” Johnson said. 

Schweich estimates this petition drive will likely cost another two to three hundred thousand dollars to facilitate, in addition to the hundreds of thousands of dollars supporters have already fundraised to help the legal battle defending the state’s lawsuit against Amendment A.

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