South Dakota’s attorney general has released a final summary for a proposed initiative to repeal the state’s medical marijuana program that a Republican activist is trying to place on the 2024 ballot.
Just days after Attorney General Marty Jackley (R) submitted a draft summary for a separate adult-use cannabis legalization measure, his office announced it finalized the explanation for the anti-reform initiative on Monday.
The conservative activist behind the medical marijuana repeal proposal, Travis Ismay, is also seeking to put an additional measure before voters that would block the state from having future ballot questions to legalize any drug that is federally prohibited.
“This initiated measure repeals South Dakota’s medical marijuana program,” the attorney general’s explanation for the cannabis says. “If approved, that repeal makes all possession, use, cultivation, manufacture, and sale of marijuana and marijuana products a crime. This initiated measure does not affect laws dealing with hemp. Marijuana remains illegal under Federal law.”
In order to qualify for the 2024 ballot, the initiative must receive at least 17,509 valid signatures from registered voters.
Even if Ismay is able to gather enough signature to qualify either measure, its seems unlikely that voters would go along with it at the polls considering that the medical marijuana measure that appeared on the 2020 ballot was approved overwhelmingly, with nearly 70 percent of the vote.
That said, voters did reject an adult-use cannabis legalization ballot measure last year after approving an earlier version in 2020 that was ultimately invalidated by the state Supreme Court.
Reform advocates are preparing to give it another shot for next year’s ballot, though they’ve taken issue with how the attorney’s draft summary characterizes their proposal. While it says that it would legalize “distribution” of cannabis, there is no commercial sales component in the initiative, so the campaign is asking for a revision during an active public comment period.
Funding is another outstanding question that the campaign says will likely determine whether they fully commit to securing signatures for potential ballot placement with the backing of the national Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).
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Ahead of last year’s election, a poll found that 51 percent of South Dakotans planned to vote against the legalization measure, while 40 percent said they’d be supporting it and 10 percent remained undecided. That was the third poll in a row showing the legalization measure behind.
After voters approved medical cannabis legalization in 2020, Gov. Kristi Noem (R) tried to get the legislature to approve a bill to delay implementation for an additional year. But while it cleared the House, negotiators were unable to reach an agreement with the Senate in conference, delivering a defeat to the governor.
In response, her office started exploring a compromise, with one proposal that came out of her administration to decriminalize possession of up to one ounce of cannabis, limit the number of plants that patients could cultivate to three and prohibit people under 21 from qualifying for medical marijuana.
In the 2022 legislative session, the House rejected a legalization bill that the Senate had passed, effectively leaving it up to activists to get on the ballot again.
A Marijuana Interim Study Committee, headed by legislative leaders, was established to explore cannabis policy reform, and the panel ultimately recommended that the legislature take up legalization. The House-defeated legislation was one of the direct products of that recommendation.
Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.