For the second time, marijuana reform advocates in as many election cycles have turned in signatures to force a vote on the legalization of cannabis in South Dakota.
And though the Secretary of State still needs to certify the hundreds of pages of petitions hand-delivered Tuesday, South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws officials say an in-house screening process of signatures ensures they’ll make the November ballot.
“We are very proud of the signature drive we ran and we’re confident we’re going to qualify,” SDBML director Matt Scweich told the Argus Leader while traveling to Pierre. “With that being said, we have to respect the process and let the Secretary of State do its job.”
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SDBML is proposing to legalize personal use, possession and cultivation of cannabis for adults 21 and older in South Dakota through the state’s ballot initiative process. But unlike in 2020, when the organization proposed to voters a similar change using a Constitution amendment, SDBML is using an initiated measure this time around.
That means about 17,000 signatures of registered voters are necessary to qualify for the ballot, whereas a Constitutional Amendment requires about twice as many.
While Schweich declined to say how many total signatures the group collected and turned in, the in-house screening of signatures found that 19,250 of those collected were valid.
If the Secretary of State’s Office agrees with that assessment, the initiated measure will be the third cannabis-related ballot question posed to South Dakota voters in two years.
Previously:Medical marijuana law changing after Gov. Kristi Noem signs cannabis bills into law
Voters in November 2020 signed off on a new law that created a medical marijuana program through the state health department, as well as a constitutional amendment legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana.
The latter was struck down in the state Supreme Court in 2021 after being ruled a violation of the state Constitution’s requirement that amendments do not encompass more than one subject. That legal challenge was brought by Gov. Kristi Noem and two law enforcement officers.
“This will withstand any potential lawsuits so we can avoid what happened after 2020,” Schweich said. “We don’t want to give politicians any kind of opening to thwart the will of the people.”
Noem’s office did not immediately respond to request for comment.