South Dakota’s secretary of state on Tuesday gave activists approval to launch a signature gathering drive to put a marijuana legalization initiative on the state’s 2022 ballot.
Advocates have been considering a slew of reform measures as the state Supreme Court continues contemplate a review of the constitutionality of an earlier cannabis legalization initiative that voters approved in 2020 but which was later challenged with a lawsuit funded by the administration of Gov. Kristi Noem (R).
Time is running short to mobilize a ballot campaign to qualify for 2022, however. And while the campaign had initially put forward four proposed legalization initiatives in the event of a negative ruling by the court, they’ve decided to pursue just one.
Late last week, the attorney general’s office published the final form of the various reform measures, and now the secretary of state has signed off, clearing the way for petitioning to begin.
Matthew Schweich, campaign director for South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws (SDBML) said in a press release that advocates remain “hopeful” that Amendment A, the 2020 legalization measure, will be restored by the Supreme Court.
“However, the November 8 deadline for 2022 ballot qualification is quickly approaching, and we have no choice but to launch a signature drive,” he said. “In the coming days, we will be distributing petitions to volunteers all across the state and announcing signing locations where voters can easily sign our petitions. We have less than a month to collect the signatures we need, but our supporters are very energized.”
He said that the group decided to pursue the shortest proposed initiative they filed because it is “the most likely to withstand any future legal challenges.”
Here’s what the cannabis legalization measure that activists are pursuing would accomplish if enacted:
- Possession of up to one ounces would be legal for adults 21 and older.
- People could grow up to three plants for personal use. For households with more than one adult, there would be a six-plant cap. People could not cultivate their own plants, however, if they lived in a jurisdiction that has marijuana retailers.
- The Department of Revenue would be responsible for developing regulations and issuing cannabis business licenses.
- Regulators would have until July 1, 2023 to issue rules for the program.
- They would have to approve enough licenses to mitigate the influence of the illicit market, but not so many that the industry becomes oversaturated.
- A 15 percent excise tax would be imposed on marijuana sales.
- After covering the costs of implementation, half of the remaining tax revenue would go to the state’s public schools and the other half would go to the general fund.
- Localities would be able to opt out of allowing cannabis businesses to operate in their jurisdiction.
- Public consumption would be banned and punishable by a civil fine.
- Employers would not be prevented from imposing restrictions on workers’ marijuana use.
A fiscal analysis by the Legislative Research Council concluded that the measure “could generate estimated additional revenue of $3.3 million in FY 2024, $4.8 million in FY 2025, and $6.2 million in FY 2026, totaling $14.3 million over three years.”
If the Supreme Court rules to uphold the 2020 legalization initiative, advocates would drop the new effort—but they aren’t taking any chances and are doing what they can now to put the issue back before voters next year if need be.
SDBML will have until this November 8 to collect at least 16,961 valid signatures from registered voters to qualify the statutory measure for next November’s ballot. The campaign is seeking volunteers to boost the petitioning process.
“As you probably know, [voter-approved] Amendment A is stuck in court. We’re still waiting for the South Dakota Supreme Court to issue a ruling and we don’t know when that will occur,” SDBML said in an email blast to supporters over the weekend. “While we wait, the November 8th deadline to submit petitions and qualify a second cannabis legalization initiative for the 2022 ballot (which will be necessary if Amendment A loses in court) is quickly approaching.”
“We have no choice but to launch another signature drive this month. We need to collect 17,000 signatures from South Dakota voters by early November,” the organization said.
While advocates remain frustrated over a February lower court ruling that invalidated last year’s adult-use legalization initiative—and the ongoing delay in the Supreme Court’s decision on upholding or overturning that decision—they’re at least encouraged that the separate medical cannabis measure that voters approved approved took effect in July.
For the statutory, adult-use legalization measure that the campaign is now pushing, activists listed a number of ways people can help get the reform on the ballot:
- Collect signatures from family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, and other people you know.
- Collect signatures at public events (for example, at concerts or football games).
- Collect signatures at friendly local businesses that host Signing Locations.
- Host or manage a Signing Location (a business that serves as a signature collecting location open to the public).
- Host a public or private Signing Event (e.g. a BBQ at your house).
- Join our digital volunteer team, responsible for calling and texting other South Dakota voters to help them sign the petition (you can do this one without leaving your couch).
- Drop off and pick up petitions from other voters in your area.
- Recruit other volunteers and signing locations.
- Serve as a notary for the campaign.
- Serve as a Volunteer Captain responsible for managing other volunteers.
“If enough South Dakotans donate just a few hours of their time, we’ll have no problem qualifying for the ballot,” SDBML said. “If not, we may be waiting years for a cannabis legalization policy in South Dakota. Let’s not allow that to happen.”
Outside of South Dakota, advocates across the county are also already working on number of state-level cannabis initiatives for 2022.
Last week, Oklahoma activists filed a pair of 2022 ballot initiatives to legalize adult-use marijuana and remodel the state’s existing medical cannabis program.
Nebraska marijuana activists have begun petitioning for a pair of complementary initiatives to legalize medical cannabis that they hope to place on the state’s 2022 ballot.
Ohio activists have cleared a final hurdle to begin collecting signatures for a 2022 ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in the state.
Florida activists recently filed a ballot measure to legalize marijuana for adult use.
New Hampshire lawmakers are pursuing a new strategy to legalize marijuana in the state that involves putting a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot for voters to decide on in 2022.
Lawmakers in Maryland are also crafting legislation to place a marijuana legalization referendum on the 2022 ballot after the House speaker called for the move.
Missouri voters may see a multiple marijuana initiatives on the state’s ballot next year, with a new group filing an adult-use legalization proposal that could compete with separate reform measures that are already in the works.
Arkansas advocates are collecting signatures to place adult-use marijuana legalization on the ballot.
Activists in Idaho are working to advance separate measures to legalize possession of recreational marijuana and to create a system of legal medical cannabis sales. State officials recently cleared activists to begin collecting signatures for a revised initiative to legalize possession of marijuana that they hope to place before voters on the 2022 ballot. Meanwhile, a separate campaign to legalize medical cannabis in the state is also underway, with advocates actively collecting signatures to qualify that measure for next year’s ballot.
After a House-passed bill to legalize marijuana in North Dakota was rejected by the Senate in March, some senators hatched a plan to advance the issue by referring it to voters on the 2022 ballot. While their resolution advanced through a key committee, the full Senate blocked it. However, activists with the group North Dakota Cannabis Caucus are collecting signatures to qualify a constitutional amendment to legalize cannabis for the 2022 ballot.
Wyoming’s attorney general recently issued ballot summaries for proposed initiatives to legalize medical marijuana and decriminalize cannabis possession, freeing up activists to collect signatures to qualify for the 2022 ballot.
And it’s not just marijuana measures that reform activists are seeking to qualify for state ballots next year. A California campaign was recently cleared to begin collecting signatures for an initiative to legalize psilocybin. And advocates in Washington State have announced plans to put a proposal to decriminalize all drug before voters.
Meanwhile, voters in more than a dozen Ohio municipalities will decide on ballot measures to decriminalize marijuana next month. That comes as an Ohio Republican lawmaker plans to announce a new bill to legalize cannabis statewide on Tuesday.
Read the full text of the South Dakota marijuana legalization initiative below:
Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.