State Lawmakers Want To See Recreational Cannabis In South Dakota

Legislators in South Dakota earlier this week have passed a bill to legalize the adult use of marijuana. This will be used to overhaul the state’s newly installed medical cannabis program. In a victorious 8-2 vote a subcommittee will carry out investigating adult-use legalization. Which was done after a recommended approval of a draft bill that’s being carried by Chairman Hugh Bartels (R).

All of this came as the South Dakotas Supreme Court further analyzes a review of a cannabis legalization initiative. Which was passed by state voters in 2020. Yet this bill was later faced with legal issues paid for by the administration of Gov. Kristi Noem. All while this is going on, activists have started collecting signatures to put a marijuana bill on the state’s 2022 ballot. Which came to be after getting cleared from the secretary of state’s office.

South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws feels it will be undeterred by congressional engagements. This will be done to purely advise putting an alternative legalization proposition before the legislature in 2022. To which it will push forward with plans to hand in petitions next month. These petitions are to put the cannabis issue in front of voters prior to next year.

A proposal is adequately what the Adult-Use Marijuana Study Subcommittee presented at the start of the week. The subcommittee first took a positive vote on Bartels’s bill. It will now move on to the full Marijuana Interim Study Committee. A step that is done before possibly being acknowledged by the legislature’s Executive Board. Once it has passed that point, the bill would be introduced for formal action in the 2022 session.

The way the bill is constructed, it will permit adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to 28 grams of cannabis. The state Department of Revenue would be responsible for regulating the market and issuing marijuana business licenses. Unlike the legalization measures that South Dakota voters passed in 2020, this bill would not allow for home cultivation. So for commercial cannabis grows sales could only be grown inside, also.

“It’s about as close as we’re going to get to get something passed out of the committee,” Bartels told the Argus Leader ahead of Tuesday’s vote.


He said in a separate interview with KELO that “we picked this [legislative] path to go down” in the event that the 2020 initiative was struck down in court. “I would imagine that if the court does rule that Amendment A stands, this bill will never be introduced.”

As well advocates, aren’t waiting for the court or for lawmakers. They plan to push forward with a 2022 ballot measure to legalize recreational cannabis. Which as the committee continues on and as the justice further studies the earlier voter-approved initiative.

SDBML Director Matt Schweich told the Leader that the campaign hopes “we can work with” lawmakers on their proposal, but “there is no scenario in which we stop collecting signatures based on committee recommendations.”

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South Dakota Pushes For The Legalization Of Recreational Cannabis

“At this time, we are completely focused on our petition signature drive so that we can maintain the option of going back to the ballot next year if necessary,” Schweich told Marijuana Moment. “Our goal is to finish the drive in early November. After that, we will turn our focus to the upcoming legislative session. We remain open to working with legislators to enact laws that align with the will of the people. Ideally, a 2022 ballot initiative is unnecessary. But right now, we need to keep that option open.”

There’s a small window of time to assemble a ballot campaign to qualify for 2022, however. The campaign had first pushed forward four proposed legalization measures. Which was done so in the event of a contrary decision by the court. Although they have chosen to pursue just one.

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SDBML will need to obtain a minimum of 16,961 valid signatures from registered voters. These signatures are needed to qualify the statutory measure which needs to be done by November 8th. The campaign is looking for people to help to expand the petitioning process.

Currently, advocates are still uneasy over a February lower court ruling. A decision by the court invalidated last year’s adult-use legalization initiative. Now, this has further delayed the Supreme Court’s decision on upholding or reversing that decision. The Supreme Court has been reassured that the separate medical cannabis measure that voters approved took effect in July.

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Final Thoughts On South Dakota Legalizing The Adult Use Of Marijuana

Still, that would be effectively replaced under the “compromise” proposal that the subcommittee passed on Tuesday. There wouldn’t be a purpose for medical clearance to get marijuana for those 21 and older. Yet, the bill would make it so the state Department of Health could resume giving out recommendations for medical cannabis for those under 21.

Rep. Mark Willadsen (R) said he thinks “those that want to get marijuana for medical purposes that are over the age of 21 are going to be able to do that more easily with this program than they do with the medical marijuana program that we have in force now.”

“I view this as a step in the right direction for South Dakota—for simplicity in government, for not having two bureaucracies when we can make one do the work of those two,” he said.

The subcommittee also granted to place tax provisions related to marijuana sales in a separate bill. The reason for this is putting this in place would have required a two-thirds majority of legislators to pass legalization itself.

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