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Marijuana Legalization Measure Officially Qualifies For South Dakota 2020 Ballot

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A measure to legalize marijuana for adult use has officially qualified for South Dakota’s November ballot, the secretary of state’s office announced on Monday.

The proposed constitutional amendment, which was submitted by a former federal prosecutor in September, would allow adults 21 and older to possess and distribute up to one ounce of marijuana. Individuals would also be allowed to cultivate up to three cannabis plants.

The development comes one month after the secretary of state said that a separate campaign to legalize medical cannabis in South Dakota had also submitted the required valid signatures to qualify for the 2020 ballot—meaning that voters in the state will see two separate marijuana measures when they go to the polls in November.

Under the broader recreational legalization proposal, the South Dakota Department of Revenue would be responsible for issuing licenses for manufacturers, testing facilities and retailers. And sales on cannabis products would be taxed at 15 percent, with revenue earmarked to cover the program’s implementation, public education and the state general fund.

Additionally, the measure requires the legislature to pass bills providing access to medical cannabis for patients and allowing for the sale of hemp by April 1, 2022. If the separate medical marijuana legalization initiative is approved, however, that specific provision wouldn’t be necessary.

The signature threshold for the medical cannabis initiative as a statutory measure (16,961 signatures) was lower than that for the broader legalization measure, which is a proposed constitutional amendment (33,921 signatures).

“As outlined in South Dakota Codified Law § 2-1-16, our office conducted a random sample of the petition signatures and found 68.74 percent to be valid,” Secretary of State Steven Barnett (R) said in a press release. Based on the results of the random sample, 36,707 signatures were deemed valid, his office projected.

National advocacy groups Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and New Approach PAC have backed both proposals.

“South Dakota will become the first state in American history to vote on both medical marijuana and adult-use legalization initiatives on the same ballot,” Matthew Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana Moment. “The adult-use legalization initiative will greatly benefit the people of South Dakota by ending the injustice of arresting otherwise law-abiding adults for marijuana offenses. It will focus law enforcement resources on fighting serious crime, generate new tax revenue for the state, and create jobs.”

“At this point, it appears increasingly unlikely that Congress will pass legislation this year to fix our nation’s broken federal marijuana laws,” Schweich, who played a central role in overseeing the signature gathering drives for both South Dakota initiatives, said. “Therefore it is crucial that our movement win as many ballot initiative campaigns as possible this November and increase the pressure on Congress to take action. That is how we will ensure success at the federal level in 2021.”

Advocates are hopeful that both measures will be approved by voters, but they also anticipate some pushback from Gov. Kristi Noem (R), who vetoed a hemp legalization bill last year and the state’s Republican party, which actively implored residents not to sign ballot petitions when they were circulating in September.

The reform movement could see a slew of legalization measures make it on ballots across the U.S. this year. Already, New Jersey’s legislature passed a resolution to put the question of legalization before voters in November’s election. Mississippi activists also submitted far more signatures than required for a medical cannabis initiative and are awaiting verification from the secretary of state.

This story has been updated to include comments from Schweich.

Florida Marijuana Lawsuit: ‘Stealth Deadline’ Means Legalization Might Miss 2020 Ballot

Photo courtesy of Nicholas C. Morton.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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Minnesota Marijuana Legalization Bill Could ‘Absolutely’ Pass Full Legislature If GOP Senate Allows A Vote, Sponsor Says

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A bill to legalize marijuana in Minnesota is set for a House floor vote this week, and the sponsor of the legislation is optimistic that it could pass the full legislature—if only the GOP-controlled Senate would just allow a vote on it.

This measure—filed by House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (D), Speaker Melissa Hortman (D) and other lawmakers—has moved through a dozen committees since February. It would allow adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis and cultivate up to eight plants, four of which could be mature.

Despite being advanced through 12 House panels, there have been lingering doubts about its prospects in the Senate. But Winkler said in an interview on Sunday that, if Republican leadership in the chamber give it a vote, “it absolutely could pass.”

“Support for legalizing cannabis for recreational or personal use, making sure that we have a safe, regulated marketplace, that we are expunging criminal records for people who’ve been unfairly targeted for law enforcement reasons for cannabis in the past, making sure that we’re creating a marketplace that reflects Minnesota’s values—all those things are our priorities in this bill, and they are priorities for Minnesotans of all political persuasions,” Winkler said.

Pressed on whether the legislation could advance through the Republican-led Senate if it advances through the House, the leader said it “absolutely could pass,” citing public polling on the issue and the fact that South Dakota voters approved a legalization initiative last year.

“It cuts across both parties,” Winkler said. “I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t pass both houses if the vote can come up in the Senate.”

But one provision of the legalization bill that the leader isn’t willing to cede on concerns expungements for people with prior cannabis convictions.

He said in a tweet on Monday that “expunging existing cannabis offenses is a non-negotiable piece of our legalization bill,” and that “is an economic and criminal justice issue.”

While Republican support remains an open question in either chamber, it is the case that the proposal has earned the support of several GOP members as its moved through an extensive committee process.

That’s despite the fact that Republicans have generally signaled that they’re more interested in revising the state’s existing medical cannabis program than enacting legalization of adult use.

But a GOP member of the House Taxes Committee, which approved the broader legalization bill last week, indicated that he felt an amendment he introduced and that was adopted could bolster Republican support.

That revision from Rep. Pat Garofolo (R) directs remaining cannabis revenue to a tax relief account after implementation costs are covered and substance misuse treatment and prevention programs are funded.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,100 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

Before the Taxes Committee, the bill passed the Health Finance and Policy CommitteePublic Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy CommitteeEducation Finance CommitteeState Government Finance and Elections CommitteeJudiciary Finance and Civil Law CommitteeEnvironment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy CommitteeAgriculture Finance and Policy CommitteeWorkforce and Business Development Finance and Policy CommitteeLabor, Industry, Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy Committee and Commerce Finance and Policy Committee.

The litany of committees the bill has gone through makes it perhaps the most thoroughly vetted legalization measure to move through a state legislature—and it means that a solid portion of the House has already had the chance to review, propose amendments to and vote on the legislation it as it advances to the floor, presumably increasing its chances of passage in the chamber.

The majority leader’s bill as introduced was identical to a proposal he filed last year, with some minor technical changes. Winkler, who led a statewide listening to gather public input ahead of the measure’s introduction, called it the “best legalization bill in the country” at the time. It did not advance in that session, however.

Under the legislation, social equity would be prioritized, in part by ensuring diverse licensing and preventing the market from being monopolized by corporate players. Prior marijuana records would also be automatically expunged.

On-site consumption and cannabis delivery services would be permitted under the bill. And unlike in many legal states, local municipalities would be banned from prohibiting marijuana businesses from operating in their areas.

Retail cannabis sales would be taxed at 10 percent. Part of that revenue would fund a grant program designed to promote economic development and community stability.

The bill calls for the establishment of a seven-person Cannabis Management Board, which would be responsible for regulating the market and issuing cannabis business licenses. It was amended in committee month to add members to that board who have a social justice background.

People living in low-income neighborhoods and military veterans who lost honorable status due to a cannabis-related offense would be considered social equity applicants eligible for priority licensing.

Cannabis retails sales would launch on December 31, 2022.

Gov. Tim Walz (D) is also in favor of ending marijuana prohibition, and in January he called on lawmakers to pursue the reform as a means to boost the economy and promote racial justice. He did not include a request to legalize through his budget proposal, however.

Walz did say in 2019 that he was directing state agencies to prepare to implement reform in anticipation of legalization passing.

Winkler, meanwhile, said in December that if Senate Republicans don’t go along with the policy change legislatively, he said he hopes they will at least let voters decide on cannabis as a 2022 ballot measure.

Heading into the 2020 election, Democrats believed they had a shot of taking control of the Senate, but that didn’t happen. The result appears to be partly due to the fact that candidates from marijuana-focused parties in the state earned a sizable share of votes that may have otherwise gone to Democrats, perhaps inadvertently hurting the chances of reform passing.

In December, the Minnesota House Select Committee On Racial Justice adopted a report that broadly details race-based disparities in criminal enforcement and recommends a series of policy changes, including marijuana decriminalization and expungements.

Head Of Top Federal Drug Agency Says It’s Time To Consider Decriminalization

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Head Of Top Federal Drug Agency Says It’s Time To Consider Decriminalization

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The head of a top federal drug agency is criticizing the ongoing policy of criminalizing people for drug use and is suggesting that the government should instead consider a policy of decriminalization.

Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), penned an essay for the journal Health Affairs that’s titled “Addiction Should Be Treated, Not Penalized.” It lays out the case against incarcerating people over low-level drug offenses and looking at the issue as a public health matter.

While it stops short of explicitly endorsing decriminalization, Volkow says that the current system leads to disproportionate enforcement against communities of color and can actually increase the risk of overdose deaths.

“Drug use continues to be penalized, despite the fact that punishment does not ameliorate substance use disorders or related problems,” she said. “Imprisonment, whether for drug or other offenses, actually leads to much higher risk of drug overdose upon release.”

“We have known for decades that addiction is a medical condition—a treatable brain disorder—not a character flaw or a form of social deviance,” Volkow continued in the essay, which was first published by Health Affairs late last month and republished on NIDA’s website on Friday. “Yet, despite the overwhelming evidence supporting that position, drug addiction continues to be criminalized. The US must take a public health approach to drug addiction now, in the interest of both population well-being and health equity.”

The NIDA head pointed out how people of color have been “disproportionately harmed by decades of addressing drug use as a crime rather than as a matter of public health.” Citing disparities in how opioid criminalization has been enforced and laws punishing crack more harshly than powder cocaine, Volkow said these are examples of “racial discrimination that have long been associated with drug laws and their policing.”

What makes these admissions notable is the source from which they’re coming. While NIDA is known among advocates as a source of resistance to reforms such as ending marijuana prohibition, its director sides with them on the fundamental principle that substance misuse should not be criminalized.

“The damaging impacts of punishment for drug possession that disproportionately impact Black lives are wide ranging. Imprisonment leads to isolation, an exacerbating factor for drug misuse, addiction, and relapse,” the director said. “It also raises the risk of early death from a wide variety of causes.”

Volkow also said that beyond incarceration, merely being arrested for marijuana possession “can leave the individual with a criminal record that severely limits their future opportunities such as higher education and employment.” And that enforcement trend hurts black people more than white people despite comparable rates of consumption.

“This burden reinforces poverty by limiting upward mobility through impeded access to employment, housing, higher education, and eligibility to vote,” she said. “It also harms the health of the incarcerated, their non-incarcerated family members, and their communities.”

These statements ostensibly lend themselves to a harm reduction policy position in favor of decriminalization, but Volkow doesn’t specifically say that’s the route lawmakers should take. Instead, she says that research “is urgently needed to establish the effectiveness and impact of public health–based alternatives to criminalization, ranging from drug courts and other diversion programs to policies decriminalizing drug possession.”

To that end, NIDA is “redoubling its focus on vulnerabilities and progression of substance use and addiction in minority populations,” she said. “We are exploring research partnerships with state and local agencies and private health systems to develop ways to eliminate systemic barriers to addiction care.”

The agency is “also funding research on the effects of alternative models of regulating and decriminalizing drugs in parts of the world where such natural experiments are already occurring,” Volkow said, presumably referencing countries such as Portugal that have stopped criminalizing people over simple possession.

“People with substance use disorders need treatment, not punishment, and drug use disorders should be approached with a demand for high-quality care and with compassion for those affected,” she said. “With a will to achieve racial equity in delivering compassionate treatment and the ability to use science to guide us toward more equitable models of addressing addiction, I believe such a goal is achievable.”

While NIDA might not be widely considered a champion of progressive drug policy, its director has previously conceded that existing federal drug laws aren’t working.

In 2019, for example, she acknowledged that the Schedule I status of marijuana and other drugs makes it “very difficult” for researchers to study the benefits and risks of those substances.

“Indeed, the moment that a drug gets a Schedule I, which is done in order to protect the public so that they don’t get exposed to it, it makes research much harder,” Volkow said during a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing. “This is because [researchers] actually have to through a registration process that is actually lengthy and cumbersome.”

She also discussed the potential benefits and risks of cannabis at a congressional hearing last year.

NIDA is also one of the main agencies behind a new development in federally sanctioned marijuana research. After requesting public input last year on a standard THC unit for cannabis studies, it announced last week that it had reached a determination to set the standard at five milligrams of THC per dosage.

Don’t Bring CBD Pet Shampoo Onto Military Bases, U.S. Air Force Warns

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Don’t Bring CBD Pet Shampoo Onto Military Bases, U.S. Air Force Warns

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Don’t bring your dog’s CBD-infused shampoo on federal military bases, the U.S. Air Force reminded personnel in a recent blog post.

While hemp and its derivatives are federally legal—and a growing number of states have regulated marijuana markets—a Massachusetts base of the military branch emphasized that possessing or using cannabis products can result in disciplinary action.

“Hemp, CBD and traces of THC can be found in a number of products like shampoos, lotions, and lip balms that you can buy in the open market, but you can’t bring them onto the installation,” Tech. Sgt. Kyle Majorana said. “Even if it’s for your pet, it’s still illegal.”

He stressed that the “line between state and federal laws begins and ends at our gates.”

While this notice specifically targeted one Air Force base, the message is consistent with past updates from the military division, which has gone out of its way to make its cannabis policy clear.

About one year after hemp was federally legalized, the Air Force sent out a notice that similarly warned against using CBD products that are commonly found on the market. The reason for the blanket ban, it said, is because those products may have trace amounts of THC that could show up in a drug test.

The Air Force said the previous year that it wants its members to be extra careful around “grandma’s miracle sticky buns” that might contain marijuana.

To that end, this new blog post is just the latest example of the military branch underscoring its enforcement priorities.

For military members, drug use and possession will have adverse career implications and administrative actions like loss of rank and pay,” Maj. Steven Vallarelli said. “If the case warrants more severe action, members could be subject to a court-martial, possibly resulting in a federal conviction.”

The policy also applies to non-members, the post says. There could be “security clearance implications” for civilian employees and contractors convicted of possessing marijuana, for example. And visitors at federal installations who bring cannabis could also be penalized.

“Our intent is always to protect, educate and inform the base community while maintaining good order and discipline,” Maj. Shane Watts said.

Several military divisions have taken steps to advise members about marijuana prohibition policies in recent years.

In 2019, the Department of Defense (DOD) announced a policy barring all active and reserve service members from using hemp products, including CBD.

The Navy issued an initial notice in 2018 informing ranks that they’re barred from using CBD and hemp products no matter their legality. Then in 2020 it released an update explaining why it enacted the rule change.

DOD more broadly reaffirmed that CBD is off limits to service members, regardless of the federal legalization of hemp and its derivatives, in earlier notices published last year.

The Coast Guard said that sailors can’t use marijuana or visit state-legal dispensaries.

And NASA, which is not part of the military, warned that CBD products could contain unauthorized THC concentrations that could cost employees their jobs if they fail a drug test.

A factor that could have influenced these policy updates is that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration released guidance to federal agency drug program coordinators in 2019 that outlined concerns about THC turning up in CBD products and causing failed drug tests. The agency issued an updated warning late last year after several more states voted to legalize marijuana.

As military institutions continue to broadly ban cannabis for active service members, congressional lawmakers are pushing for marijuana reform when it comes to those who have served in the past.

A bipartisan bill reintroduced last month would federally legalize medical marijuana for military veterans, for example.

Lawmakers have also recently filed several pieces of legislation that would promote research into the therapeutic potential of cannabis for veterans.

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Bill Will Go Before Full Legislature This Week

Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.

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