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South Dakota just voted to legalize medical and adult-use marijuana. Here’s what happens next

Published on November 3, 2020 · Last updated November 4, 2020
South Dakota just voted to legalize medical and adult-use on the same ballot. But it's not legal to possess until July 2021. (Joshua Titus for Leafly)

South Dakota voters just made history by legalizing medical marijuana and adult-use cannabis in one fell swoop. The recreational cannabis measure (Constitutional Amendment A) passed with 52% of the vote, and the medical measure (Initiative 26) passed with 69% of the vote.

It’s particularly significant that Amendment A passed in addition to the medical initiative because if only the medical initiative had passed, it would have likely been dismantled by the state’s conservative legislature. Protections laid out in Amendment A prevent that from happening.

Additionally, Constitutional Amendment A requires the state to establish a legal hemp program. 

Here’s what happens next.

No. Marijuana possession remains illegal in South Dakota until July 1, 2021.

And it is highly illegal in South Dakota. The state has some of the most draconian cannabis penalties in the nation. Don’t spark up a celebratory joint just yet.

When can I legally possess marijuana?

Again: July 1, 2021, is the magic date. Starting on that date it will be legal for all adults to possess up to one ounce of cannabis flower.

How much marijuana can I legally possess?

When it’s legal (and that’s not until July 2021), all adults 21 or older may possess a total of one ounce of cannabis (with no more than eight grams of that being concentrate).

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Medical patients can possess up to three ounces of marijuana, and an unlimited quantity of plants.

After July 1, 2021, an adult may possess up to three plants, with a limit of six plants per household.

Medical patients with a state-issued card may grow an unlimited quantity of plants.

Make sure you keep those plants out of view, though! Under CA-A, you can get slapped with a $250 fine if your plants are visible to the public.

When can I apply for a medical marijuana card?

Probably next spring or summer.

The state’s medical program is required to accept patients no later than July 1, 2021. Patients will be able to obtain a temporary card on that day, and the state Department of Health will have 140 days to issue permanent cards.

When can I buy medical marijuana?

It remains unclear when the first adult-use stores will open.

While medical marijuana will technically be available for purchase on July 1, 2021, don’t expect many dispensaries to necessarily be stocked and ready for business on that day.

When can I buy recreational marijuana?

It’s going to be a while. Probably mid- to late-2022.

The Department of Revenue has until April 1, 2022, to craft rules and issue regulations for the adult-use program, but it’s unclear how long after that date it will take for stores to be up and running.

Will marijuana sales be taxed?

Yes. Adult-use sales will be taxed at 15%.

Medical sales will not be taxed.

What conditions qualify for a medical card?

Initiative 26 allows for residents with a wide range of conditions to apply for a medical card; anyone with a “chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment” that produces one or more of the following:

  • cachexia or wasting syndrome
  • severe, debilitating pain
  • severe nausea
  • seizures
  • severe and persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis

Can my town ban cannabis stores?

Local governments can regulate or prohibit adult-use stores as they see fit. But they cannot ban medical marijuana dispensaries.

How many cannabis stores will be licensed?

There are no license caps for medical marijuana dispensaries.

While there are no hard caps on licenses for adult-use stores, Constitutional Amendment A does permit the Department of Revenue to “issue enough licenses to substantially reduce the illicit production and sale of marijuana throughout the state; and Limit the number of licenses issued, if necessary, to prevent an undue concentration of licenses to any one municipality.”

Can I get my past cannabis conviction expunged?

Currently, no.

Neither initiative contains language around expungement, despite South Dakota’s extreme anti-marijuana laws.

The legislature will be able to enact an expungement process if they choose. This will require some advocacy work.

Can I get fired for using marijuana legally?

Yes. Unless you’re a medical patient with a state-issued med card, nothing in the law prevents employers from firing employees who are suspected of using legal cannabis in private, on their own time.  

Medical patients may have some protection. Initiative 26 states that “a registered qualifying patient who uses cannabis for a medical purpose shall be afforded all the same rights under state and local law…as it pertains to: Any interaction with a person’s employer.”

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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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