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Recreational marijuana makes another appearance on South Dakota ballot

Mike Moen

(Greater Dakota News Service) Just as in 2020, voters across South Dakota will have a chance in November to decide whether the state should legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana for adults.

In a highly publicized process, a similar ballot question was approved in South Dakota two years ago, but it was ultimately rejected by the state Supreme Court over technical issues. This time, supporters left out provisions dealing with licensing and taxation.

Matthew Schweich, campaign manager for the "Yes on 27" Campaign, said while it is not the broader proposal, they are still proud of the question they put forward.

"Measure 27 is good public policy," Schweich asserted. "It eliminates cannabis arrests for adults; it means that police can focus on serious crime."

If approved, people 21 and older would be allowed to possess or distribute up to one ounce of marijuana and could own up to three plants, and there would be civil penalties for violators. Citing social ills, Gov. Kristi Noem helped lead the legal challenge to the 2020 outcome. This year, the coalition Protecting South Dakota Kids said legalization would harm communities.

Opponents also contended efforts to pass the measures rely on out-of-state funding. Schweich argued the initial approval in 2020 showed a majority of South Dakotans support the idea. If it clears the hurdle again, he thinks policymakers should accept the result.

"And it means that we can restore the will of the people and uphold South Dakota's heritage," Schweich contended. "South Dakota created the initiative process, and that's an idea that spread to over half of the states in the country."

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia allow some form of recreational marijuana. This fall, a handful of others, including neighboring North Dakota, also have legalization questions on the ballot.