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South Dakota Voters Green-Light Legalization and Medical Access

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Separate initiatives for full legalization and medical [cannabis] both pass in South Dakota

South Dakotans have delivered a crippling blow to those who favored the status quo of [cannabis] prohibition in The Mount Rushmore State by simultaneously passing a pair of ballot initiatives: Initiative Measure 26 and Constitutional Amendment A.

Constitutional Amendment A allows adults to purchase and possess up to one ounce of [cannabis] and grow up to three plants for personal use. Measure 26 permits qualified patients to possess and home-cultivate cannabis for medical purposes and establishes a state-regulated retail system for medical [cannabis] sales.

NORML’s Executive Director Erik Altieri said: “No state has ever moved from [cannabis] prohibition to allowing both medical use and adult-use access, quite literally, overnight. These votes are a stunning rebuke to those elected officials that for decades have refused to move forward with substantive [cannabis] law reform legislation, and they are yet another indication of the near-universal popularity of these policy changes among voters in all regions of the United States.”

Under South Dakota law, the possession of any amount of [cannabis] is a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, a $2,000 fine, and a criminal record. In 2018, an estimated one out of every ten arrests made in the state was [cannabis]-related. In recent weeks, Republican Gov. Kristi Noem spoke out publicly on television against both measures.

“The very reason South Dakotans went to the polls to decide on these issues is because elected officials like Gov. Noem consistently failed to act,” NORML’s Altieri added. “The majority of South Dakotans, like the majority of Americans, believe that physicians, not doctors, should be able to decide if medical cannabis is a proper course of medical treatment. And they do not believe that people, particularly young adults and people of color, ought to be criminalized and stigmatized for possessing small amounts of [cannabis].”


NORML advocates for changes in public policy so that the responsible possession and use of [cannabis] by adults is no longer subject to criminal penalties. NORML further advocates for a regulated commercial cannabis market so that activities involving the for-profit production and retail sale of cannabis and cannabis products are safe, transparent, consumer-friendly, and are subject to state and/or local licensure. Finally, NORML advocates for additional changes in legal and regulatory policies so that those who use [cannabis] responsibly are no longer face either social stigma or workplace discrimination, and so that those with past criminal records for [cannabis]-related violations have the opportunity to have their records automatically expunged.

Find out more at and read our Fact Sheets on the most common misconceptions and myths regarding reform efforts around the country


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