Pot legalization advocates launch ballot initiative campaign

SIOUX FALLS (AP) – Advocates for legalizing recreational marijuana in South Dakota announced Tuesday they are trying for a second time to legalize cannabis possession and cultivation for adults through a ballot initiative.

South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws said it would launch a signature-gathering campaign in the coming days after the Secretary of State approved a ballot initiative proposal for circulation Tuesday. The group has less than a month to collect nearly 17,000 signatures from South Dakota voters to meet a deadline to place the issue on next year’s ballot.

The proposed law would allow people 21 years old and over to use and grow pot for personal use. It would place a 1 ounce limit on the amount that people could use or share.

South Dakota voters last year approved a constitutional amendment to legalize cannabis, but a state circuit court judge overturned the law after it was challenged by Gov. Kristi Noem. The ruling was appealed to the state Supreme Court, but it has not reached a decision, meaning that recreational pot remains illegal in the state.

South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, a marijuana industry group that sponsored the 2020 ballot initiative, is not fully counting on the Supreme Court's decision.

“We're confident that we can collect enough signatures because we know that South Dakota voters are very motivated to put this back on the ballot if need be,” said Matthew Schweich, the campaign director for the group who also works with the Marijuana Policy Project. "Voters have had something taken away from them and our ballot petition is a means to get it back."

Schweich said the campaign already has a network of people in place from the 2020 ballot initiative and a subsequent campaign to place pressure on the Legislature to leave alone a separate ballot initiative that legalized medical marijuana.

The group had filed five potential ballot initiatives with the Secretary of State, but Schweich said it would only push one of those – a shorter proposed law that would not change the state constitution – because it would be the most likely to withstand a future legal challenge.


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