South Dakota Voters Make History by Passing Adult Use and Medical Legalization in One Day

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Editor’s note: This is one of five states with cannabis legalization for medical or adult use on the ballot today. 

For the first time in the United States, a state has legalized cannabis for both medical and adult use at once. Before today, eleven states and D.C. had already legalized cannabis for adult use. 

Voters saw both Amendment A and Measure 26 on their ballots. Amendment A is a constitutional amendment that would legalize cannabis for adult use and require the state legislature to craft regulations for medical cannabis and hemp by April 1, 2022. Adults would be able to possess up to one ounce of cannabis and to grow up to three plants. Measure 26 would establish a medical cannabis program.

Brendan Johnson, former US Attorney for South Dakota, spoke during a June news conference on the economic and criminal justice implications of the state’s legalization push. 

“I think what we’re going to see in South Dakota on this issue is really a coalition of both Democrats and Republicans coming together and [saying] prohibition does not work. It has not worked in the past. And it’s time, for the interest of our economy as well as the next generation, to get this right,” Johnson said. 

South Dakota advocates for cannabis law reform focused much of their discussion on criminal justice reform. For example, South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, the campaign behind Amendment A and Measure 26, released a report, based on U.S. Department of Justice’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program data, that showed that found that one out of ten overall arrests were tied to cannabis. Showing the racial disparity in arrests in the state, Native Americans and Black residents were arrested at five times the rate of white residents between 2007 and 2016. 

Recent polls showed support for the measures. Public Opinion Strategies and marketing firm Lawrence and Schiller recently conducted a poll on behalf of “No Way on A,” a group opposed to adult use cannabis, that found that roughly 70% of voters supported Measure 26, and about 60% of respondents supported Constitutional Amendment A. And an Argus Leader Media and KELO TV poll on adult use showed 51% in support, 45% opposed, and 5% undecided.

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