Recreational pot initiative beats petition deadline

PIERRE, S.D. (South Dakota News Watch)

The group sponsoring an initiated measure to legalize recreational marijuana in South Dakota beat the deadline by handing in 29,030 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office in Pierre on Tuesday, the final day signatures could be submitted.

It’s been a mad dash to the finish line for the pro-legalization group, which also had a hand in putting the issue on the ballot in 2020 and 2022. 

The effort got a late start due to concerns about funding and didn’t really hit its stride with paid circulators until February, according to Matthew Schweich, campaign director of South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws.

If the measure makes the ballot, the campaign will have to grapple with possible voter fatigue on an issue that will be put before South Dakota voters for a third consecutive statewide election. 

In 2020, pro-legalization Amendment A passed with 54% of the vote but was overturned by the South Dakota Supreme Court because of the state’s single-subject rule. Supporters tried to pass recreational cannabis again in 2022, and South Dakotans rejected that effort, sending Initiated Measure 27 to defeat with 53% of voters against it.

Recreational marijuana is currently legal in 24 states, with supporters pointing to economic advantages to the state economy from tax revenue. Opponents cite potential social costs and health risks such as a higher risk of cardiovascular problems from marijuana use, as outlined in a recent study in the Journal of the American Heart Association.