Could marijuana legalization be on its way to South Dakota? As if 2020 couldn’t get any stranger, a new poll suggests that voters in the Mount Rushmore State could be ready to take the leap.
The survey, conducted by South Dakota-based marketing firm Lawrence and Schiller and conservative pollster Public Opinion Strategies on behalf of a group opposed to legalization, found that about 60 percent of voters intend to vote for Constitutional Amendment A, a proposal to allow adults aged 21 and over to use marijuana.
There is, however, a significant caveat to the data. Constitutional Amendment A is not the only pot-related proposal on South Dakota’s ballot this November. There is also Initiated Measure 26, which would make medical cannabis legal in the state.
The poll was organized by the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Industry on behalf of the group “No Way On A.”
“Going back to the numbers, we know that a significant portion of that majority for (legalized recreational marijuana use) thinks it’s related to medical,” Chamber President David Owen told the Argus Leader newspaper.
The poll found that Initiated Measure 26 enjoys even wider support in South Dakota, with 70 percent of voters saying they support the proposal.
The rural, deeply conservative state finds itself in a unique position with both a recreational and medical proposal on the ballot, and it’s one that legalization advocates argue is necessary to ensure that reform actually takes place.
The Argus Leader noted that “advocates and those leading the effort to loosen South Dakota’s marijuana laws say that passing both Constitutional Amendment A and Initiated Measure 26 at the same time is the only way to ensure the Legislature doesn’t tinker with the measures if adopted by voters in November,” because while initiated measures can be tweaked and changed by lawmakers, amendments require a subsequent vote at the ballot to undergo any changes.
Pot At The Polls
Advocates supporting both the amendment and initiated measure submitted petitions to get the proposals on the 2020 ballot in South Dakota late last year. In November, South Dakota Secretary of State Steve Barnett announced that the medical cannabis measure had qualified for the ballot. In January, Barnett certified the signatures for the recreational marijuana proposal.
For medical marijuana advocates in South Dakota, it’s a chance at redemption. In 2006, South Dakota voters narrowly rejected a measure that would have legalized medical cannabis, 53 percent to 47 percent.
The margin grew even wider four years later, when another medical marijuana proposal appeared on South Dakota’s ballot, only for it to be soundly rejected, 63 percent to 36 percent. More than 30 other states, including North Dakota, have legalized medical marijuana.
Activists behind both measures are confident in their prospects for passage in November. Along with the encouraging polling, the group South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws has touted the bipartisan endorsements both measures have received from top officials and leaders in the state.
It would mark a significant departure for a state with hyper strict laws against marijuana. As NORML noted, under South Dakota state law, “the possession of any amount of marijuana is a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, a $2,000 fine, and a criminal record.”