South Dakota Voters Approve Both Medical and Adult-Use Access

Written by Jason Sander

In a huge win for legal cannabis, voters in South Dakota voted for both a medical cannabis program as well as recreational adult use. Measure 26 establishes a medical program and Amendment A makes the purchase and possession of cannabis legal for adults aged 21 years and over.

Officials with the South Dakota legislature are now tasked with establishing a medical program, which will be fully operational by April 2022 at the latest. The state’s recreational market will be operational in July 2021. Communities are permitted to decide whether to allow dispensaries and retail locations but all adults can now legally possess up to one ounce.

Cannabis Supporters Faced Staunch Opposition

Although activists garnered much support from voters, resulting in the legalization of medical and recreational cannabis simultaneously, those in favor were not without opposition. Governor Kristi Noem (R) was among the best-known and most vocal of the voices coming out in opposition to changing the state constitution to legalize cannabis. The No Way On Amendment A intiative campaigned to oppose a recreational market in South Dakota, but these voters were in the minority and were on the losing end.

A Huge Blow Dealt to the Drug War

Thanks to the hard work from dedicated activists and advocates with the groups South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws and New Approach South Dakota, the state now becomes the first-ever to legalize recreational and medical cannabis at the same time. This historic win for cannabis sets a benchmark for other states who could follow suit in 2022 and 2024.

As of 2018, there were over 4,000 cannabis-related arrests in South Dakota, according to the activists and advocates groups mentioned above. Police resources will now be freed up for pursuing serious crimes. South Dakota joins Oregon as two states who passed progressive drug reform this election cycle. Oregon voters decided to decriminalize all drugs and treat addiction as a healthcare issue instead of a criminal one. These are massive blows dealt to the failed War on Drugs, and we should hopefully see more progress like this made in the next two to four years.

Image Source: Rudi Nockewel

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Jason Sander