South Dakota and North Dakota both will ask voters whether to lift state prohibitions on adult-use marijuana in the upcoming Nov. 8 general election.
Voters in South Dakota made history in 2020 after becoming the first state to pass measures to legalize both medical and recreational use at the same time. However, while advocates managed to save the medical cannabis measure from capitulation, Republican Gov. Kristi Noem bolstered a lawsuit to challenge the recreational-use proposal.
The state Supreme Court eventually ruled that it violated the state Constitution, invoking the “single-subject rule” and finding that recreational marijuana, medical marijuana, and hemp are each separate issues.
The new Measure 27 is a streamlined version of the previous adult-use measure. The proposed law would allow people 21 years old and older to consume and cultivate cannabis for personal use and limiting the amount that people could use or share to one ounce.
“We wrote a very short and simple statutory initiative that we felt had the lowest chance of being taken to court on a single-subject challenge,” Matthew Schweich, the campaign manager of South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, told OpenSecrets.
South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, the committee which raised more than $2.2 million for the failed Measure 26, has collected more than $320,000 for the new bid.
New Approach PAC, an arm of New Approach Advocacy Fund, a D.C.-based group that supports campaigns to legalize cannabis, has given the South Dakota pro-cannabis committee nearly $2 million over the past two efforts.
In North Dakota, which already has a medical marijuana program, a committee named New Approach North Dakota spearheaded what has turned out to be a relatively uncontentious battle to legalize recreational marijuana, with a little over half-a-million dollars in its coffers.
An influential oil industry group that previously helped finance opposition the first time around decided to forgo the opportunity this time. Other groups, including the state’s largest business chamber, decided that public perception of cannabis has significantly changed and spending money to oppose the measure might not be worth it.
Oil interests have been battling legalization because many industry jobs require drug tests. Allowing people to smoke recreationally would shrink the labor pool, Ron Ness, president of North Dakota Petroleum Council, told the Associated Press.
Ness added that one in five North Dakota jobs are directly or indirectly linked to the state’s oil industry.
The North Dakota recreational measure would allow people 21 years old and over to purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis for personal use.
The initiative, however, lacks pathway for expungements for past convictions of nonviolent cannabis crimes. Activists have said that they intend to push for social-equity provisions through the legislature should the initiative pass.