SD recreational marijuana advocates aim to get back on the ballot

Published: Dec. 27, 2022 at 9:29 AM MST
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PIERRE, S.D. - South Dakota voters might see recreational marijuana on the ballot for a third time in a row in 2024, as the group behind the past two efforts signals their intentions to get it back on the ballot.

”We think the only reason it lost is because of really low turnout... we are eager to restore the will of the people,” said Matthew Schweich, Deputy Director of South Dakotans for Better Marijuana laws.

The 2022 push to legalize recreational marijuana ultimately fell short, in large part due to lackluster fundraising. Particularly compared to 2020, where the initiative was passed by voters, but ultimately overturned by the South Dakota State Supreme Court.

“They brought it, and they brought it, and they brought it... they said we should respect the will of the voters throughout the campaign. Well, apparently, they are not going to respect the will of the voters... and they are going to bring it back again,” said Rep. Fred Deutsch (R-Florence), who also serves as the Treasurer for “Protecting South Dakota Kids.”

Protecting South Dakota Kids says they intend to create a non-profit with the same name and put a full-time lobbyist in Pierre during next year’s legislative session.

“This last year in Pierre, the pro-marijuana lobbyists outgunned us five to one, six to one... I didn’t count them, but they were swarming the Capitol. The marijuana industry puts a lot of money into hiring these guys, and we hope to push back just a little bit,” said Deutsch.

Deutsch says he intends to bring legislation that would prevent bringing similar ballot initiatives in back to back election cycles.

“The biggest hurdle is making sure you can run a well-funded campaign, and it is too early to say whether we can or can’t. But we are going to try and move through the process and build up a network of people who can donate generously and make sure that we do have a well-funded campaign,” said Schweich.

Pro-marijuana advocates have already submitted a draft of their initiative to the Legislative Research Council (LRC), which is effectively the first step to getting a measure on the ballot.