Two potential cannabis ballot measures are officially approved for circulation to collect signatures for South Dakota’s November 2024 election—one to legalize adult use and one to repeal the state’s medical cannabis program.
A third potential ballot question, which also seeks to legalize adult-use cannabis with certain limitations, was filed but has yet to be approved for circulation, according to South Dakota Secretary of State Monae Johnson’s office.
The “South Dakota Repeal Medical Marijuana Initiative” is a referendum sponsored by Travis Ismay of Newell, S.D., that aims to undo the state’s voter-approved medical cannabis measure from 2020 that garnered a 70% majority. The state’s medical cannabis program has since been implemented.
Ismay is the chairman of the Concerned Citizens of South Dakota and is also sponsoring a 2024 proposal that aims to prevent federally banned substances in the state, which would also put a halt to the medical program.
Notably, the South Dakota Department of Health issued licenses for 79 medical cannabis dispensaries, 43 cultivation facilities, 22 manufacturing facilities, and two testing laboratories. As of Nov. 13, there were 254 approved medical cannabis practitioners and 12,600 approved patient cards, according to the Health Department.
Ismay said he’s proposing to repeal the program because it took away control of local governments, specifically by forcing municipalities to allow at least one dispensary, the South Dakota Searchlight reported.
Meanwhile, the “South Dakota Marijuana Legalization Initiative” is a statutory measure being proposed by Marijuana Policy Project Executive Director Matthew Schweich. The proposed measure aims to legalize the possession of 2 ounces of cannabis flower or 16 grams of cannabis concentrate for adults 21 years and older.
This will be Schweich’s third adult-use legalization ballot campaign in South Dakota, including a voter-approved 2020 measure that was later ruled unconstitutional.
South Dakota made headlines in November 2020, when voters elected to legalize both adult-use and medical cannabis on the same ballot—a first for the nation.
That victory for reform advocates was short-lived—at least on one front—when Gov. Kristi Noem supported a lawsuit questioning the validity of the adult-use constitutional amendment following the election. Three months after 54.2% of voters backed the measure, Circuit Judge Christina Klinger struck it down based on the state’s single-subject rule.
In late November 2021, more than a year after the election, the state’s Supreme Court upheld Klinger’s ruling.
The following year, South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, which Schweich organized to sponsor his ballot measures, collected enough signatures to put another question before voters in the November 2022 election—Measure 27—which simplified language to only legalize the possession of adult-use cannabis rather than also set up a commercial program (in order to abide by the single-subject rule). But this measure failed with 52.9% of voters opposed.
Other 2024 Proposals
Now, Schweich and Quincy Hanzen, of Sioux Falls, are sponsoring a similar adult-use ballot proposal that’s circulating signatures for the state’s Nov. 2024 election.
In addition to the adult-use proposal, Hanzen is sponsoring a proposed constitutional amendment that would remove the single-subject provision for ballot measures, but this proposal has yet to be approved for signature-gathering circulation.
Meanwhile, another constitutional amendment that has been approved for circulation aims to prohibit the state Legislature from amending or repealing voter-approved ballot measures for at least seven years after their passage.
Collin Duprel, a former South Dakota congressional Libertarian candidate and co-chair of the Voice of the People organization, is one of three sponsors for this “prohibiting legislative intervention” amendment proposal.
“The Legislature can take an initiated measure and decide it’s not in the best interest of themselves and get rid of it,” Duprel told South Dakota Searchlight. “That’s what it’s all about. It’s not as sexy to the media as the marijuana or abortion question, but it’s still pretty dang important. It’s the constitutional amendment that’s out there to protect any other initiated measure passed by the people of this state.”
And, in addition to Schweich and Hanzen’s proposal that’s being circulated, a second adult-use legalization proposal was filed with the Secretary of State but has not been approved yet for circulation.
This adult-use proposal is for an initiated measure to legalize adult-use cannabis “with certain limitations.” It’s sponsored by Emmett Reistroffer, the operations manager of Genesis Farms LCC, which has eight medical cannabis dispensary licenses as well as cultivation and manufacturing licenses in the state.
Differing from Schweich’s proposal, Reistroffer’s initiated measure includes provisions for a licensed and regulated commercial retail market; it would create dual licenses for existing medical operators; and it also includes provisions for home cultivation (six plants per adult and 12 plants per household).
Per the South Dakota Attorney General’s office, Reistroffer’s proposal “would allow individuals 21 years old or older to possess, grow, sell, ingest, and distribute marijuana or marijuana paraphernalia.” More specifically, adults could possess 3 ounces of cannabis flower, 24 grams of cannabis concentrate or non-concentrated products with up 2.4 grams of THC.
Ballot campaign organizers must collect 17,508 valid signatures from registered South Dakota voters and submit the petitions to the South Dakota Secretary of State no later than May 7, 2024, in order to qualify the initiative for the Nov. 5, 2024, ballot.
“I don’t think of it as we get to the end of the signature drive, submit it and then the next chapter begins,” Schweich told South Dakota Searchlight. “We have to start raising the funds for the final push now. … We can’t just limp across the finish line in May.”