Voters in South Dakota will have another opportunity to legalize medical marijuana in 2020.
The group spearheading the effort, New Approach South Dakota, announced Thursday that Secretary of State Steve Barnett that the petition to get the referendum on next year’s ballot had been ratified.
“There are no words that any of us could say right now to put the feelings we have into perspective,” the group said in a Facebook post. “Thank you all for the support, for signing our petitions, for registering to vote and for sticking with us. We did it together & we are so grateful for all of you. Let’s push for a strong united campaign to pass this much needed law for the people of SD.”
The group needed 16,961 valid signatures in order for the measure to qualify for the ballot. Barnett said Thursday that 25,524 signatures, or 75 percent, were deemed valid. It will appear on next year’s ballot as Initiated Measure 26.
Supporters of the measure will look to redeem themselves after previous failures to legalize medical marijuana in the state. There was an effort to get a measure on the 2016 ballot, but organizers failed to round up the requisite number of signatures.
A medical marijuana measure did make it on the ballot in 2006, but it was defeated 53 percent to 47 percent. Four years later, another measure appeared on the ballot, but South Dakota voters overwhelmingly rejected it, 63 percent to 36 percent.
If voters approve it next year, the measure would permit patients with qualifying medical conditions to get a medical marijuana card from the state and possess up to three ounces of cannabis. But as in other states, the measure would almost certainly be tweaked and refined by legislators. And there is likely to be political resistance. The state’s Republican governor, Kristi Noem, vetoed a bill earlier this year that would have legalized industrial hemp, arguing that such a law would be a gateway to marijuana.
More than 30 other states, some just as deeply conservative as South Dakota, have legalized medical marijuana, while more than a dozen states and cities have legalized pot for recreational use.
South Dakota voters may get a chance to go that route, as well. A separate campaign has submitted petitions to place a recreational marijuana measure on the ballot next year, though Barnett has yet to issue a ruling on those signatures.