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South Dakota Voters Pass Pot Legalization Initiative

By Asha Glover · November 4, 2020, 2:26 PM EST

South Dakota will legalize, regulate and tax recreational marijuana under an initiative approved by voters Tuesday.

South Dakota passed Constitutional Amendment A. The new law legalizes marijuana for adults 21 and older while regulating and taxing it, and requires the state Legislature to pass laws regarding the production, cultivation and processing of hemp.

While the vote tallies will not be finalized until counties certify election results on Nov. 10, local media and The Associated Press consider the measure to have passed. As of Wednesday, the vote for Amendment A stood at 53% to 46% by a margin of approximately 26,000 votes, with just over 10,000 votes uncounted. 

The South Dakota Department of Revenue will be in charge of licensing cannabis manufacturers, testing facilities and retailers under the proposal. Cannabis products will be taxed at 15%, with the money earmarked for public education and the state's general fund, according to the text of the measure.

The law may require judicial clarification, as marijuana remains illegal under federal law, according to the measure's text.

Voters also approved Measure 26, which would legalize medical cannabis while not establishing a tax rate yet. The vote for Measure 26 stood at 69% to 31% by a margin of approximately 145,000 votes. The proposal would allow patients with debilitating medical conditions to possess up to three ounces of cannabis from a licensed dispensary and grow up to three plants. 

South Dakota is the first state to decide on both versions of legalization in the same election.

South Dakota joins other states that have legalized recreational marijuana for adults. Questions to legalize recreational marijuana also appeared on ballots in New Jersey, Montana and Arizona this year.

The outcome is a victory for South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws and the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group. Proponents of the measure have said that legalization would generate tens of millions of dollars every year for the state and strengthen the economy. They also said the new law would reduce the burden on police officers and allow law enforcement to focus more on serious public safety concerns.

Opponents of the measure, including the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce, Associated School Boards of South Dakota and AAA South Dakota, said that legalizing recreational marijuana use would decrease productivity.

The law will increase worker compensation and unemployment compensation claims and cause higher turnover employment rates and lawsuits, according to the No Way on Amendment A campaign, launched by the chamber of commerce. Additionally, the law won't result in the revenue windfall that was touted by proponents, according to the campaign.

--Additional reporting by Jack Queen. Editing by Neil Cohen.

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