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Election 2022: South Dakota marijuana legalization guide

Published on September 7, 2022

Initiated Measure 27: South Dakota’s cannabis legalization initiative

On May 25, South Dakota’s secretary of state confirmed that voters will approve or reject adult-use marijuana legalization—but only for personal use and homegrow—on this fall’s Nov. 8 ballot.

Read the full initiative here: Initiative Measure 27

Is this medical or adult use legalization?

The initiative serves primarily to legalize possession and homegrown for adults. It does not establish a regulatory or retail framework for adult-use cannabis. 

What’s the current law?

South Dakota voters passed a medical marijuana legalization initiative in 2020. The state’s first licensed dispensary opened in July 2022. Cannabis remains illegal for those without a medical card. 

South Dakota boasts some of the most outrageous marijuana laws in the country. For one, the state considers the possession of more than two ounces of cannabis a felony.

Selling less than half an ounce of cannabis carries a minimum punishment of 15 days in jail in South Dakota. Selling between an ounce and a pound can land you in jail for five years

South Dakota voted in favor of adult-use legalization in 2020, but Governor Kristi Noem (R) worked with the state Supreme Court to overthrow the vote on bogus grounds.

South Dakota marijuana laws

What the initiative would do

South Dakota’s ballot measure would permit adults to possess up to one ounce of cannabis, and grow up to three plants at home. It would additionally permit adults to transfer small amounts of cannabis without remuneration. The measure does not establish a regulatory framework to produce or sell marijuana.

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Why does this measure not allow cannabis sales?

Initiated Measure 27 is designed to thread the extremely narrow needle established by the South Dakota Supreme Court in 2021, when the court declared the state’s 2020 legalization vote invalid because it allegedly dealt with more than one issue. By state law, constitutional amendments may only cover a single issue. 

Legalizing cannabis possession and sales might risk invalidation on similar grounds. Hence, legalization only. Sales will only occur if a separate law gets passed, either by lawmakers or at the ballot box. 

How do I vote in South Dakota?

This is important: Verify your registration status and ID validity right now, while there’s still time to bring both up to date.

Vote in person, on paper ballots, on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. Polling stations will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. statewide. Click on this link to find out where to vote in South Dakota (Note: Double check before you go, since the list refers to Primary election polling places).

Not sure if you’re registered, or current? Check with the South Dakota Secretary of State’s website. You can register to vote up to 15 days before the election.

Voting takes place in person and by mail. Remember to bring your valid ID to the polling station.

Absentee voting is allowed. Check with the state website to see how it’s done.

logo for cannabis reform campaign: the number 27 in big red letters with a blue check mark, against red white and blue stripes in a circle
IM 27 would allow adults to grow and possess cannabis, but not sell it. (Logo courtesy of SDBML)

What’s required to pass legalization?

The initiative must gather a majority of votes cast in a statewide election to pass. In other words, 50.01% approval will do the trick.

If it passes, when would marijuana be legal to possess?

Possession would become legal on July 1, 2023.

How much can I possess?

Adults 21 or older may possess up to one ounce of cannabis flower. Adults may not possess more than eight grams of concentrate.

When could I start growing my own?

Homegrow would become legal on July 1, 2023.

WTF: South Dakota will vote again to legalize weed this November

When would weed stores open?

Don’t expect any weed stores to open anytime soon in South Dakota. IM-27 only legalizes possession, homegrow, and distribution without sale.

Could I smoke a joint in public?

No. Public consumption can only land you a $100 fine, however.

Will it pass? Here’s what the latest polls say

The latest poll, from July 2022, concluded that only 44% of voters support legalization. Yikes. Yet campaign director Matt Schweich questions the legitimacy of the poll; he cites dramatic swings in support from polls taken in 2020 as evidence of inaccuracy.

Legalization initiative sponsors

The organization South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws is leading the legalization campaign. Matt Schweich, of the Marijuana Policy Project, serves as the campaign director. 

The New Approach Advocacy Fund and the Marijuana Policy Project are the two largest supporters of the campaign; they’ve collectively provided over $125,000 in in-kind contributions to the campaign.

Legalization initiative opponents

Protecting South Dakota Kids formed to oppose IM-27. The group has abandoned a ballot initiative campaign of its own, but continues to fight IM-27 both via Facebook and with in-person events. 

The group collected a grand total of $1.32 in donations last year. Seriously.

How many weed stores will be allowed?

Nada. Zero. Zilch.

Would marijuana be taxed?

No sales, no taxes, my friends.

What about the expungement process?

The measure does not include any language pertaining to expungement or record sealing.

Wait, didn’t South Dakota already vote to legalize marijuana?

South Dakota voted in favor of adult-use legalization in 2020 by a margin of 54-46. Shortly thereafter, Governor Kristi Noem (R) conspired with the state Supreme Court to overthrow the vote on bogus grounds.The court argued 4-1 that the amendment was unconstitutional because it allegedly covered more than a single subject: in this case, recreational marijuana, medical marijuana, and hemp.

South Dakota Supreme Court kills adult-use legalization

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Max Savage Levenson
Max Savage Levenson
Max Savage Levenson likely has the lowest cannabis tolerance of any writer on the cannabis beat. He also writes about music for Pitchfork, Bandcamp and other bespectacled folk. He co-hosts The Hash podcast. His dream interview is Tyler the Creator.
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