Supporters of legalizing marijuana in South Dakota have been thwarted at nearly every turn, including an effort to become the 48th state to approve industrial hemp. But backers are doubling down on this year’s election.
Volunteers are gathering signatures for two initiated ballot measures. One asks voters to approve medical marijuana and the other seeks to legalize recreational marijuana. Supporters tried the same approach to get on the 2018 ballot and failed to garner enough signatures.
Melissa Mentele, head of New Approach South Dakota, a volunteer group sponsoring the medical measure, said attitudes have changed about benefits for patients. She said organizers this time around have financial support from Marijuana Policy Project, one of two national nonprofits working on the measure. The other is New Approach PAC.
“Historically our organization has not done large amounts of fundraising,” Mentele said. “We’ve always been very small and done a lot of grassroots work.”
Republican Gov. Kristi Noem supports South Dakota’s strict cannabis laws and has said that legalizing industrial hemp is legalizing marijuana by default. Hemp is related to cannabis but does not contain enough THC to make someone high.
Brendan Johnson, a Democrat and former federal prosecutor representing South Dakotans For