South Dakota cannabis activists to enact back-up legalisation measures following Judge decision

7th July 2021

Last year’s US elections was a highly anticipated event that made headlines all around the world for more than the appointment of a new president. The occasion also offered a number of US states the option to legalise adult-use recreational cannabis – an opportunity that a significant number of states grabbed on to. One of these states was South Dakota.

The votes of millions of voters were thrown into question when a decision by a state circuit judge ruled the legalisation initiative unconstitutional in February this year. An appeal has since been sent to the Supreme Court to overturn the decision.

However, cannabis reform advocates in the state have filed four separate legalisation measures with the state Legislative Research Council – to eventually put the issue to the voters once again next year – should the Supreme Court not support the voter decision.

Should the Supreme Court ruled that Amendment A – which was approved by voters in the state last November – is valid, then the sponsors have announced that they will drop the four new proposals.

Each of the four initiatives that have been introduced all call for the creation of a legal adult-use cannabis sector, however, each offers a different approach to legalisation. In addition, the group South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws are also backing a fifth measure which would eliminate the single-subject rule for ballot initiatives – the policy that led to the judiciary overturning of the vote.

One of the sponsors for the four new initiatives, Melissa Mentele, stated in a press release: “I’m proud to be a sponsor of these initiatives because they represent the will of the voters.

“South Dakotans support cannabis legalization. If Amendment A is repealed, then we need to be prepared to put legalization on the ballot again.”

State laws regarding ballot initiatives mean that there is a limited time in which sponsors can have the measures approved for circulation and collect enough signatures for it to qualify for the ballot. To improve the chances of getting another cannabis legalisation measure on the 2022 ballot, sponsors will only pursue one of the proposed initiatives, should Amendment A not be reinstated.

If passed by the Legislative Research Council, a ballot initiative must then be approved by the attorney general and secretary of state, before being put to the public. The measures will then have to gain at least 33,921 valid signatures for a constitutional proposal and 16,961 signatures for a statutory measure by 8 November.

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