Marijuana reform groups in South Dakota have submitted two petitions containing a combined total of more than 80,000 signatures in a bid to further marijuana legalization efforts.
South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws gathered more than 50,000 signatures calling for a ballot that would ask voters whether they want to legalize recreational marijuana. It would include regulating and taxing an adult-use cannabis industry, along with cultivation, processing, and sale of hemp.
A separate group called New Approach South Dakota submitted a petition with north of 30,000 signatures. It demands a ballot initiative that would ask voters if they want to legalize medical marijuana for patients with various conditions.
A petition needs 33,921 signatures for a constitutional ballot initiative in South Dakota. The recreational marijuana petition meets that criteria, but the medical petition falls just short. However, the minimum number of signatures required for ballot qualification is 16,961 for a statutory initiative, so it falls into that category.
“Despite the fact that a strong majority of South Dakotans support allowing legal, regulated, and safe access to medical marijuana for patients with debilitating conditions, elected officials have failed to take action,” said Melissa Mentele, director of New Approach South Dakota, in a news release. “Patients cannot afford to wait any longer, and this ballot initiative is our only recourse.”
Monday was the final day for submitting petitions and the South Dakota Secretary of State has now begun verifying the validity of the signatures.
A ballot initiative in neighbouring North Dakota recently asked voters to usher in one of the most liberal cannabis industries in the U.S., but almost 60% of them rejected it. The group behind it, Legalize ND, plans to try again next year after overhauling its strategy and coming up with a less liberal framework.
Eleven states have legalized recreational and medical marijuana use, and another 22 states have enacted medical marijuana laws.
Down in Kentucky, Republican lawmaker from Louisville is proposing legislation for the 2020 General Assembly that would legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky. Rep. Jason Nemes was previously a staunch opponent to legalization, but he has performed an about-turn after speaking with physicians and researching the subject.
He introduced similar legislation in this year’s session and it passed through the Judiciary Committee with near unanimity, but it never made it to a floor vote.