Recreational marijuana ballot initiative could be more hotly contested in 2022

For the second time in as many years, recreational marijuana is set to appear on the November ballot. Opponents to the measure are pressing to block it from once again receiving support from a majority of voters.
(Dakota News Now)
Published: Sep. 7, 2022 at 6:51 AM CDT
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PIERRE, S.D. - South Dakota voters passed recreational marijuana with roughly 54% of the vote in 2020.

But that doesn’t mean it is a lock to pass again in 2022 in the form of Initiated Measure (IM) 27.

“Protecting South Dakota Kids,” led by Jim Kinyon of Rapid City, has organized opposition to the initiative.

State Rep. Fred Deutsch (R-Florence) is the Treasurer for the organization.

“People have come out of the wood woodwork on this issue, there is a lot of concern about what this would do to our state,” Deutsch said. “And I think, lessons have been learned when you look at other states more seriously. Does South Dakota really want to become Colorado, or do we want to be South Dakota?”

Deutsch and other opponents point to a poll conducted by South Dakota News Watch, which suggests that recreational marijuana is not supported by a majority of South Dakotans right now. In part, the poll says only about 44% of South Dakotans support legalization.

Matthew Schweich, who is leading the South Dakota campaign to pass IM 27, says he is dubious of the poll results.

“I have never seen support for legalization drop ten points in a state in two years,” Schweich said. “I have never really seen it drop at all, maybe a point or two in the midst of a campaign, but a ten point drop is completely unprecedented.”

Regardless of poll numbers, midterm elections elicit lower turnout numbers than a general election. Meaning that anything could go this year.

“South Dakotans just have to make a decision. What is more important to you?” Deutsch asked. “Is it more important to have access to weed, to have a good time? Or is it more important to be able to protect your children, your families, and your communities.”

“There are some people who saw the Amendment A ruling, and throw their hands up and want to say they are done with politics,” Schweich explained. “But the vast majority of people who support cannabis reform in South Dakota, they see that ruling and they are motivated by it and want to work harder. So the ruling is giving people a reason to work harder for the campaign.”

The fate of legal, recreational cannabis in South Dakota will be voted on during the general election on November 8th.