To legalize, or not to legalize? That is the question South Dakotans will answer when it comes to marijuana in the state. In November, voters will decide on Constitutional Amendment A and Initiated Measure 26.
Amendment A would legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana as well as require laws ensuring access to medical marijuana. IM 26 would establish a medical marijuana program for qualifying patients. On Wednesday, South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws held a Zoom news conference to make its case to legalize it. However, local law enforcement has questions about the implications of approving the amendment and initiated measure.
South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws want voters to say yes to cannabis in the state.
“The outright prohibition on cannabis does not work,” Brendan Johnson, former U.S Attorney and member of Better Marijuana Laws, said.
Supporters include Johnson and Chuck Parkinson , who worked for President Reagan’s administration on the frontlines of the famed War on Drugs.
“I’ve come to the conclusion after all these years, we’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars and really gotten no results and we’ve ruined lives. We have taken away productive citizens who cannot get jobs, because they may have a drug conviction on their case file,” Parkinson said.
During its news conference, group members said legalizing and regulating marijuana would free up prisons and jails, and they also cited a legislative research council study estimating it would bring in $30 million of tax revenue by 2024.
“Of course that does not mean we favor no restrictions on cannabis. We certainly do,” Johnson said.
KELOLAND News spoke with the public information officer for the Sioux Falls Police Department about concerns over this.
We know from experience, drug use has harmful and impairing effects. We’ve seen a lot of different issues from drug use,” Sam Clemens said. “Not just from meth and heroin, there’s obviously a lot of attention on that, but we’ve also seen a lot of crimes with marijuana.”
The decision is up to the voters, but Clemens hopes law enforcement will continue to be a part of the discussion now and in the future when it comes to enforcing any potential reform.
“Anytime somebody’s talking about a big change like that, there’s obviously a lot of stakeholders involved and I think getting perspective from law enforcement can be very valuable,” Clemens said.