Supporters, opponents speak out on whether to legalize marijuana in South Dakota

Politics

SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — South Dakotans will be deciding whether or not to legalize marijuana in two measures on the November ballot. Constitutional Amendment A would legalize recreational marijuana while Initiated Measure 26 calls for legalizing medical marijuana.

Supporters say the time has come for marijuana, both for medical use and recreational use, to become legal in South Dakota.

“We’ve had ten years to really watch what has happened in the United States and we’ve watched the other states legalize and as their programs have been implemented, we’ve seen that they haven’t had any significant problems that law enforcement wasn’t able to take care of,” Initiated Measure 26 supporter Melissa Mentele said.

Supporters say legalization will no longer turn casual users of marijuana into criminals.

“It will not only free law enforcement, but it will unclog our courts, our jails and our prison system, it will stop ruining the lives of people who aren’t hurting anyone else,” Amendment A supporter Drey Samuelson said.

But opponents of Amendment A say drug laws need to be determined by the legislature.

“There’s no way this belongs in the constitution. It’s too complicated and if you’re going to change anything such as the $100 for using underage, you have to go to a vote of the people, this is really a legislative issue,” Amendment A opponent David Owens said.

Members of South Dakota’s medical community says voters need to consider the health risks of marijuana.

“Your ability to make decisions goes down when you’re using this drug. You’re no longer able to make appropriate decisions, your reaction times go down and things like traffic fatalities go up,” Dr. Benjamin Aaker of the South Dakota State Medical Association said.

Opponents say legalization will allow young people to have easier access to marijuana. While supporters say having safe, legal access to marijuana lowers the usage of more addictive drugs like opioids.

Supporters of Amendment A say taxing marijuana will also bring in millions of dollars for education funding in South Dakota. But opponents say the projections are inflated and don’t take into account social costs tied to legalization, such as addiction treatment.

You can learn more about both measure on our KELOLAND News Special Report: Marijuana on the Ballot. It airs Friday night at 6:30 right here on KELOLAND television. You can also watch on KELOLAND.com and our KELOLAND news app.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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