South Dakota Cannabis Activists Submit Signatures to Place Legalization Reform on This Year’s Ballot

South Dakota Cannabis Activists Submit Signatures to Place Legalization Reform on This Year’s Ballot

Hoping the third time is a charm, the group delivered almost twice as many signatures necessary to put the initiative on the ballot.

2024 is shaping up to be one of the most eventful years in the worlds of cannabis and hemp since Washington and Colorado became the first two states to legalize adult-use cannabis in 2012. 


With the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) recently announcing its intention to reschedule marijuana from a Schedule 1 to a Schedule 3 narcotic, as well as Congressional lawmakers outlining a new Farm Bill to address concerns over intoxicating hemp derivatives (IHD), this pivotal election year could also provide a seismic shift for advocates and stakeholders of the overall cannabis and hemp industries.


Earlier this year, the Florida Supreme Court validated a "grassroots" ballot initiative that would allow voters in the Sunshine State to decide whether recreational cannabis should be legal for individuals over 21. Now, voters in the state of South Dakota may also get the opportunity to decide on adult-use cannabis legalization this coming November.


According to multiple media outlets, South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws (SDBML) delivered 29,030 signatures to the Secretary of State's Office on Tuesday to meet the turn-in deadline. To be included on this year's ballot, 17,508 of those signatures must be verified, which the group is more than confident it provided.


This latest effort marks the third time the SDBML has attempted to place a cannabis legalization reform measure on the ballot. In 2020, voters approved the first attempt, but the State Supreme Court invalidated the result over single-subject issues. The second effort, mounted by the campaign in 2022, was rejected by voters at the ballot box. SDBML organizers hope the third time will be the charm, similar to the Florida voters' situation.


"Today is the culmination of seven months of hard work by advocates and volunteers across South Dakota. We are very confident that we have collected enough signatures from registered voters to qualify for this November's ballot," Matthew Schweich, executive director of SDBML, said in a press release.


"Today is the culmination of seven months of hard work by advocates and volunteers across South Dakota. We are very confident that we have collected enough signatures from registered voters to qualify for this November's ballot."

- Matthew Schweich, Executive Director of SDBML


Other state reform advocates were equally pleased to learn that the group, strapped for campaign funds due to almost non-existent national industry and philanthropic financial support, could overcome the challenges and provide the signatures in time.


"Things all seem to be moving in the right direction for South Dakota to finally win the freedom they voted for a few years ago. It's inspiring to see this industry come together and work so hard. We're looking forward to Election Day," Deb Peters, president of the Cannabis Industry Association of South Dakota, said.


"Things all seem to be moving in the right direction for South Dakota to finally win the freedom they voted for a few years ago. It's inspiring to see this industry come together and work so hard. We're looking forward to Election Day."

- Deb Peters, President of the Cannabis Industry Association of South Dakota


Under the proposed reform measure, adults 21 and older will be allowed to purchase and possess up to two ounces of cannabis. The initiative also allows those same individuals to cultivate up to six plants per person, with a 12-plant maximum personal growth amount per shared living household, which doubles the amounts from the last iteration rejected in 2022. 


While the Secretary of State's Office must still validate the signatures, the group is more than confident the initiative will make the 2024 ballot. They are equally sure this time, voters will overwhelmingly approve legalization, and the Supreme Court will have no issues with the wording or any other legal technicalities that invalidated the 2020 result.


However, South Dakota is a notoriously conservative state, with an equally right-wing and somewhat unstable governor. Gov. Kristi Noem (R), who recently made national headlines for all the wrong reasons when she related a horrifying account of when she savagely murdered the family dog, openly opposes any legalization efforts and has actively worked in the past to derail the state's medical marijuana program.


Regardless, the SDBML and its supporters are working diligently to educate the voting public on their measure and why it would benefit the state's citizens economically and health-wise. If voters in Florida and South Dakota do approve both ballot measures, they would become the 26th and 27th states to enact adult-use cannabis legalization reform, further expanding the reach and availability of the versatile and magical plant.