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Recreational cannabis back on ballot in South Dakota

Kim Jarrett | The Center Square

(The Center Square) - South Dakota voters will get another chance to decide if they want to legalize recreational marijuana in the state.

Initiated Measure 27 will be on the November 8 ballot after advocates successfully gathered the number of valid signatures required, according to Secretary of State Steve Barnett. 

If passed, the measure would make it legal for adults over 21 to possess or distribute one ounce of marijuana or less. Residents could also legally cultivate three or fewer plants. 

South Dakota voters approved a referendum in November 2020 that would have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes. The South Dakota Supreme Court struck down the amendment a year later, saying the amendment should not have addressed more than one subject as it also mentioned medical marijuana.

The state Senate passed a measure earlier this year that would have done the same, but the bill was defeated in the House of Representatives.

The state requires 16,961 signatures for a question to appear on the ballot. A random sample shows 25,023 signatures were valid, according to a news release from Barnett. 

The state would not bring in any additional tax revenue as the sale of marijuana is not part of the initiative, according to a fiscal note filed by the Legislative Research Council in October. 

"There would be decreased expenses for the state due to decreased incarceration from the nullification of some marijuana-related laws, but the decrease in expenses is projected to be negligible at this time due to the de minimis number of individuals in prison due to crimes related to an ounce or less of marijuana and the unknown but likely minimal effect on marijuana laws related to the cultivation and possession of marijuana directly from plants," researchers said in the note. "The decreased expenses for jails would be more significant." 

The group South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws was concerned about the number of signatures in April, according to a post on its website. The group managed to garner more than 5,000 between then and the May 3 deadline to meet the requirements.