A measure to legalize medical marijuana in South Dakota has officially qualified for the state’s 2020 ballot.
After activists turned in more than 30,000 signatures for the petition last month, the secretary of state’s office has confirmed that the statutory measure received enough valid signatures to qualify.
“[O]ur office conducted a random sample of the petition signatures and found 74.65 percent to be valid,” South Dakota Secretary of State Steve Barnett (R) said in a press release. The proposal is now officially designated as Initiated Measure 26.
This is the first cannabis reform citizen initiative to make it onto any state ballot for 2020, with several others—from Mississippi to Nebraska—also in the works. Earlier this week, New Jersey lawmakers approved a resolution to put a referendum on legalization before voters next November.
Medical cannabis legalization is one of two reform proposals that organizers are hoping to put to South Dakota voters next year. A separate campaign submitted signatures for an initiative to legalize for adult use, but that constitutional amendment proposal requires a higher threshold, and state officials have yet to validate the signatures.
SOS Barnett announced the petition submitted for an initiated measure on legalizing marijuana for medical use was validated & filed by his office today. It will be titled Initiated Measure 26 & appear on the 2020 General Election ballot on Nov 3, 2020. https://t.co/qRcCCj8nkG
— South Dakota Secretary of State (@sodaksos) December 19, 2019
Both measures are being backed by national advocacy groups Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and New Approach PAC.
“Next year, South Dakota voters will have the opportunity to approve a ballot initiative that would provide legal, safe, and regulated access to medical marijuana for qualifying patients,” MPP Deputy Director Matthew Schweich told Marijuana Moment. “Right now, the state government forces otherwise law-abiding people to be criminals in order to live healthier, happier, and more productive lives. We are going to end that heartless injustice.”
“Very soon, we will hear whether the adult-use legalization initiative will also qualify for the 2020 ballot,” he said. “We expect that it will, and South Dakota will be the first state in American history to vote on medical marijuana and adult-use legalization initiatives on the same ballot.”
“As federal reform continues to stall, it is more important than ever that we run and pass as many viable marijuana reform ballot initiatives as possible next year. That is how we will ensure success in Congress in 2021,” he said.
The already-qualified measure would establish a medical cannabis program in the state, allowing patients suffering from debilitating medical conditions to possess and purchase up to three ounces of marijuana from a licensed dispensary. They could also grow at least three plants, or more if authorized by a physician.
While reform advocates are optimistic about the prospects of voters approving both medical and adult-use legalization, it is likely to face resistance from certain actors in the state. Gov. Kristi Noem (R) vetoed a hemp legalization bill in March, for example, and the state’s Republican party actively implored residents not to sign ballot petitions when they were circulating in September.
Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.