SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota voters will soon get to decide if they want to legalize the use of medical marijuana in their state.
A measure to legalized medical marijuana will be placed on the 2020 ballot and labeled Initiated Measure 26, South Dakota Secretary of State Steve Barnett announced late Thursday, Dec. 19.
New Approach South Dakota, the group that proposed the 2020 ballot initiative, celebrated the announcement. It has previously tried and failed to get a medical marijuana legalization initiative on the ballot.
"There are no words that any of us could say right now to put the feelings we have into perspective," organizers wrote on the group's Facebook page. "Thank you all for the support, for signing our petitions, for registering to vote and for sticking with us."
The group needed to get 16,961 valid signatures to get its initiative on the ballot. It obtained 25,524, or 75% of those collected by the group, based on a random sampling, according to Barnett.
Melissa Mentele, director of New Approach South Dakota and sponsor of the initiative, said unpaid South Dakota volunteers collected more than half of the collected signatures.
"I'm relieved. It's been a long road, it's been an amazing road," she said. "I'm glad to see us here, I'm really excited for the patients of South Dakota to have that option."
If voters approve the ballot initiative, South Dakota would join neighboring states North Dakota, Montana and Minnesota in legalizing medical marijuana. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law.
The South Dakota proposal would authorize medical marijuana for use by patients with chronic or debilitating medical conditions. Patients would be required to get a registration card from the state Department of Health. They could then possess up to three ounces of marijuana. And if allowed to grow plants, they must possess a minimum of three marijuana plants, or as prescribed by a physician. The maximum number of plants would be set by the state.
The initiative would also allow for medical marijuana cardholders from outside the state.
South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, in a written explanation accompanying the ballot initiative — a standard practice with all initiated measures — said the initiative would likely require clarification by lawmakers or the courts.
The Legislative Research Council, the research arm of the state Legislature, was tasked with examining the financial effect of the approved measure on the state. Its remarks, in a fiscal note on the proposed initiative, said it wasn't sure what those costs would be. But it cautioned any costs savings from fewer drug convictions would likely be offset by the increased costs of the use and abuse of marijuana in the state.