South Dakota Activists Move to Legalize Cannabis

Two different cannabis advocacy groups in South Dakota have collected enough signatures to turn in their petitions for cannabis legalization this week.

According to the The Associated Press, Nov. 4 was the deadline in South Dakota for the 2020 ballot, and both petitions made it in on time. One proposal focuses on a medical cannabis program for patients in need, and the other seeks to legalize recreational cannabis.

New Approach South Dakota, one of the legalization groups, collected 30,000 signatures on its ballot initiative for medical cannabis. “Despite the fact that a strong majority of South Dakotans support allowing legal, regulated, and safe access to medical marijuana for patients with debilitating conditions, elected officials have failed to take action. Patients cannot afford to wait any longer, and this ballot initiative is our only recourse,” said Melissa Mentele, director of New Approach South Dakota.

The other advocate group, South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, submitted a petition turned in more than 50,000 for fully legalizing cannabis. They needed 33,921 signatures for an initiative to change the South Dakota Constitution, and they far surpassed that goal. “We are proud to have submitted petitions on behalf of over 80,000 South Dakotans who believe that voters should decide out state’s marijuana and hemp laws,” said Brendan Johnson, a former federal prosecutor and Democrat sponsoring the initiative.

“Right now, there are South Dakotans with serious health conditions who are forced to break the law in order to access effective medical treatments that allow them to live healthier and more productive lives, and that is unacceptable,” Marijuana Policy Product Deputy Director Matthew Schweich said in a statement.

South Dakota has been on a long journey towards some kind of legalization, medical program, or decriminalization. Recently, the Gov. Kristi Noem expressed disapproval even for legal hemp, something that is now accepted in many states. Officials have been working to make simple changes like removing outdated possession-by-ingestion charges in the state.

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