South Dakota’s marijuana issues have taken some interesting turns the past few weeks, suggesting that several people and groups are not willing to wait around for things to happen, or possibly not happen.
Last week, a proposal surfaced in an interim subcommittee to inject a new, possibly clarifying wrinkle into the state’s marijuana status. Under the proposal, anyone age 21 and older would be allowed to possess up to an ounce of cannabis for either recreational or medical use. This would address the legality of recreational marijuana, which voters approved last November but was suspended by a lower court last winter and is still awaiting a final verdict from the state Supreme Court. The legislation would also render moot Initiative 26, the medicinal cannabis law that voters overwhelming approved last year. After some early considerations to somehow undercut it, lawmakers finally decided that they cannot overturn the will of the people on this issue.
On one hand, the proposal provides what seems like an overall streamlined solution to marijuana legality in this state by embracing recreational cannabis, which has hung in limbo for months.
However, the proposal would also remove some voter-approved aspects dealing with medical marijuana, notably the portion allowing individuals to grow their own plants. Also, commercial marijuana cultivation in the state could only occur indoors.
Matthew Schweich of South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws told KELO, “The positive is that legislators want to enact a bill that is in alignment with the will of the people and that’s good to see. Now, is this proposal the policy that we should ultimately adopt? That remains to be seen. We’re going to need to take a closer look.”
However, he added, “Unfortunately, throughout all over the country, legislators have this fear of home cultivation as though it’s going to create big problems. The reality is that somebody growing three or six or nine plants at home is not going to cause any problem.”
But Schweich’s group isn’t waiting around for what happens with this proposal or what the state Supreme Court may decide (or when it may decide it). Two weeks ago, the group announced a new petition drive to get an initiative for legalizing recreational marijuana on the 2022 ballot.
“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 the website Marijuana Moment. “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.”
Time for this is of the essence, with 16,961 verified signatures needed by Nov. 8, 2021, to get the measure on the 2022 ballot.
Marijuana proponents are leaving nothing to chance with either the Supreme Court or the Legislature.
It’s also clear some lawmakers appear to want to hammer out the marijuana issue in this state once and for all.
At this moment, nothing is settled on the state’s marijuana front other than there will be some form a legalization, probably of both recreational and medicinal cannabis, in the near future. The details remain fluid and must be clarified in the months to come.