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South Dakotans have given the green light to legalizing marijuana

Published: Nov. 4, 2020 at 6:40 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - South Dakotans have given the green light to legalizing marijuana in the state.

Voters approved Initiated Measure 26, which legalizes medical marijuana by a 20% margin.

The result was much closer for Amendment A, the recreational marijuana ballot question, which passed by 8%.

While marijuana advocates are celebrating the victory, some residents are concerned about how these laws may impact the state moving forward.

Marijuana has been on the South Dakota ballot before but hadn’t garnered much support. As of election night, that has changed, with South Dakota becoming the first state ever to have voted in favor of both medical and recreational marijuana at the same time.

“People’s attitudes have changed on this issue substantially," South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws Campaign Manager Drey Samuelson said. "Ten years ago, a medical marijuana initiative was put on the ballot in South Dakota and it was defeated two to one.”

Samuelson is confident marijuana reform is the right move for South Dakota. He says it will provide economic, health, and social justice benefits to the state.

“No longer will South Dakotans have to choose between obeying the law and getting relief from chronic pain, seizures, and anxiety," Samuelson said. "And, no longer will illicit dealers and drug cartels be the folks who profit from the sale of marijuana, now it will be our state’s public schools and our general fund.”

Not everyone is as convinced though. Speaker of the House Steve Haugaard says he is saddened by South Dakotan’s decision to legalize marijuana.

Haugaard believes it will lead to conflicts with existing state and federal laws, as well as create a loaded 2021 session, in which the Legislature will already be dealing with important issues surrounding the pandemic.

“It’s going to be a ton of work, and it’s going to create a ton of problems," Haugaard said. "It is a gateway drug, and when we train our kids to see this as an okay part of the society we’re sending the wrong message.”

However, with marijuana now appearing to be here to stay, the next step in the process will be for the South Dakota Department of Revenue as well as the State Legislature to set laws and regulations. That will happen throughout the first half of next year.

“We’ll see if we can work our way through it, and if we can find a way to make it work, pursuant to these measures, but also to work in the best interest of the citizens," Haugaard said.

Both medical and recreational marijuana are expected to be legal in South Dakota come July 1st, 2021.

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