South Dakota marijuana legalization campaign submits signatures for ballot

May 3, 2022

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Advocates for legalizing recreational marijuana in South Dakota on Tuesday submitted petition signatures to the secretary of state, saying they were confident they had collected enough to place the initiative on the November ballot.

South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, the organization that launched the campaign, has scrambled in recent days to gather the nearly 17,000 signatures of registered South Dakota voters required to get a proposed law on the ballot. Campaign director, Matt Schweich, said the organization has evaluated the petitions and estimates it has at least 19,250 valid signatures.

“We are confident that we are going to qualify for the ballot,” he told the Associated Press, as he made his way to Pierre to submit the signed petitions.

The proposed law would allow people 21 years old and over to use and grow pot for personal use. It would place a 1 ounce (28 gram) limit on the amount that people could use or share.

Secretary of State Steve Barnett will take a random sample of the petition signatures to evaluate whether the campaign collected enough. If the measure is certified, its signature count can still be challenged within 30 days.

Marijuana legalization has spurred political fights among South Dakota’s dominant Republican party in recent years and tested faith in a form of direct democracy — the ballot measure. A citizen-proposed constitutional amendment — known as Amendment A — to legalize cannabis passed by 54% in 2020, but Gov. Kristi Noem sponsored a lawsuit to challenge it and the state Supreme Court ruled last year that it violated the state Constitution.

Noem has continually decried recreational pot legalization, but Schweich argued that Noem’s actions have only given the campaign energy.

“I think what happened to Amendment A has angered many voters in this state, even those who are not passionate about cannabis reform,” he said.