South Dakota governor’s push to block voter-approved marijuana legalization is criticized in ad campaign
A prominent South Dakota lawmaker and Democratic gubernatorial candidate takes on incumbent Governor Kristi Noem (right) for her opposition to marijuana legalization and the role her administration played in overturning a cannabis initiative approved by voters last year.
With another statewide legalization proposal set to appear on the ballot in November, House Minority Leader Jamie Smith (D) is making it clear he will work with it, not cons, voters to ensure that the policy change is actually passed this time. And the contestant recently released a contrasting TV ad on the issue with Noem.
The spot features two people sitting in a bar watching the governor galloping on a horse and complaining that she is “undermining our votes and corrupting state government.”
Reverse our vote on cannabis? Push Amendment C? The conversation continues. pic.twitter.com/0nIQJSU0rq
— Jamie Smith for SD Governor (@RepJamieSmith) August 14, 2022
Smith, who ran unopposed in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, is then shown onscreen saying South Dakotas are “burning themselves out over the crazy stuff,” including Noem’s focus on “cancelling our vote on cannabis” and his support for a separate ballot measure that would have made it harder for voter initiatives to pass (but was rejected by the electorate in June).
Noem’s administration funded a legal challenge to the 2020 legalization vote that ultimately ended in the state Supreme Court striking down the cannabis initiative on procedural grounds.
The people of South Dakota voted to legalize recreational marijuana and that vote was not only ignored, but obstructed by Governor Noem at every turn. As your Governor, I will fight for the will of South Dakotans to legalize recreational marijuana.
— Jamie Smith for SD Governor (@RepJamieSmith) June 12, 2022
In a series of social media posts, Smith repeatedly called out Noem for opposing the state’s voter will on cannabis, pointing out, for example, that more people voted for the cannabis measure. legalization of the 2020 ballot than for the governor in 2018.
172,912 South Dakotans voted for Kristi Noem in 2018
225,260 South Dakotans voted yes for recreational marijuana in South Dakota in 2020
South Dakota’s constitution says, “Under God the people reign.” It doesn’t say “Under God the people rule unless Kristi Noem doesn’t like it.”
— Jamie Smith for SD Governor (@RepJamieSmith) May 19, 2022
A poll released in December 2021 found that most South Dakota voters approved of Noem’s job performance overall, but only 39% supported his handling of marijuana legalization, with 51% disapproving.
Noem posted an announcement ahead of the 2020 election, urging residents to vote against the legalization initiative that eventually passed, 54% to 46%.
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More recently, however, the governor appears to be trying to join in the implementation of a separate medical cannabis legalization initiative that voters also overwhelmingly approved in 2020, although she opposed the proposal in the run-up to the elections.
After regulators approved the rules for the medical marijuana program in September, Noem said his administration “is fully on board to ensure that South Dakota continues to implement the cannabis program at most responsible and patient-focused medical purpose in the country”.
Noem attempted to get the Legislature to approve a bill to delay implementation of the medical cannabis program for another year, but although he cleared the House, negotiators were unable to to reach an agreement with the Senate in conference, delivering a defeat to the governor.
In response, his office began exploring a compromise last year, with a proposal that came out of his administration to decriminalize possession of up to one ounce of cannabis, limit the number of plants patients can grow to three and ban those under 21 from qualifying. for medical marijuana.
Following the court ruling that invalidated the previous victory at the polls, campaigners have decided to take a two-track approach to policy change in 2022, both working with lawmakers for legislative reform while raising separately from signatures for the ballot initiative if lawmakers fail to act.
While they would have preferred lawmakers to pass the policy change, that did not materialize this session. The House rejected a legalization bill passed by the Senate in March, effectively leaving it up to activists to go to the polls again.
South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws (SDBML) managed to secure enough signatures to requalify for 2022. The organization said it intends to work with lawmakers on this measure while continuing to push for the ballot measure.
Here’s what the campaign’s marijuana legalization ballot initiative would accomplish if approved by voters:
The measure would allow adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis. They could also grow up to three plants for personal use.
It also provides for civil penalties for violating provisions related to matters such as public consumption or the cultivation of more plants than permitted.
Employers would be specifically allowed to continue to enforce the workplace drug policy prohibiting the use of cannabis by workers.
State and local governments could continue to prohibit marijuana-related activities made legal under the initiative in buildings “owned, leased or occupied” by a government agency.
The measure does not touch on regulatory policies regarding the taxation of cannabis sales, licensing or equity.
An Interim Marijuana Study Committee, led by legislative leaders, was created last year to explore cannabis policy reform, and the panel ultimately recommended that the legislature undertake legalization this session. The bill rejected by the House was one of the direct products of this recommendation.
A cannabis legalization bill has been officially recommended by the leadership panel for the next session.
Coming to the 2022 ballot, South Dakota is just one of many states where voters can decide on drug policy reform in November.
In neighboring North Dakota, the secretary of state certified that activists had collected enough signatures to put a marijuana legalization initiative in front of voters.
The Arkansas Supreme Court recently ordered the secretary of state’s office to certify a marijuana legalization initiative for the November ballot, but votes may not end up being counted, depending on the outcome. outcome of an ongoing legal challenge.
Election officials in Maryland finalized wording for a marijuana legalization referendum that lawmakers placed on the November ballot and released an official summary of the reform proposal.
Oklahoma’s attorney general revised the ballot title of a marijuana legalization initiative that activists hope will pass before voters in the state, mostly making technical changes that the campaign considers satisfactory.
The Missouri secretary of state has certified that activists have provided more than enough signatures to qualify a marijuana legalization initiative for the November ballot.
Colorado voters will have the chance to decide on a landmark ballot initiative in November to legalize psychedelics and create licensed psilocybin “healing centers” where people can use the substance for therapeutic purposes.
Nebraska advocates recently submitted signatures for a pair of medical cannabis legalization initiatives. The campaign has faced several challenges along the way, including the loss of critical funding after the death of a key donor and a court battle over the state’s geographic requirements for ballot petitions.
A move to legalize marijuana will not appear on Ohio’s November ballot, the campaign behind the measure announced in May. But the activists have reached an agreement with state officials in a legal challenge that will give them a chance to start in 2023.
Michigan activists announced in June that they would no longer pursue a ballot initiative on the legalization of psychedelics statewide for this year’s election and would instead focus on qualifying the measure in front of voters. in 2024.
The campaign behind an effort to decriminalize drugs and expand treatment and recovery services in Washington state said in June it had halted efforts to label an initiative for the ballot as november.
While Wyoming activists said earlier this year they had made solid progress collecting signatures for a pair of ballot initiatives to decriminalize marijuana possession and legalize medical cannabis, they don’t. have not gotten enough to meet the 2022 ballot deadline and will aim for 2024 while simultaneously pushing lawmakers to advance reform even sooner.
In March, California activists announced they had failed to collect enough signatures to qualify a move to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for the state’s November ballot, though they weren’t giving up on a future candidacy for the electoral cycle.
Meanwhile, there are various local reforms activists want voters to decide in November, including local ordinances to decriminalize marijuana in Ohio, West Virginia and Texas.
Wisconsin voters in at least half a dozen cities and counties will be invited to the November ballot if they support the legalization, taxation and regulation of cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol. These advisory questions will not be binding, however, and are intended to take the temperature of voters and send a message to lawmakers about where their constituents stand.
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Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.