South Dakota: Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Voices Support for Statewide Legalization Initiatives

South Dakota Marijuana Ballot Initiatives

Proponents of a pair of statewide ballot initiatives legalizing the marijuana market in South Dakota have received a high-profile endorsement. On Wednesday, former US Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle publicly voiced his support for the passage of Measure 26 and Amendment A.

According to reporting in the Argus Leader:

The Aberdeen native who represented South Dakotans for nearly three decades in Washington D.C. in both federal legislative chambers is among the latest to publicly endorse a pair of ballot questions dealing with marijuana legalization that voters will answer in next month’s election.

“I did not advocate for legal marijuana while I served in the Senate but, like many other Americans, my viewpoint has vastly evolved in recent years, and my passion for improving how our society delivers health care as well as pioneering social and political change has never been stronger,” Daschle said in a statement to the Argus Leader.

The endorsement comes on the heels of the release of polling data finding that some 70 percent of South Dakotans back Initiative Measure 26 — which establishes a medical cannabis access program in the state — and 60 percent of voters also support Constitutional Amendment A, which legalizes the adult-use marijuana market.

Marijuana policy reform is urgently needed in South Dakota. Under state law, the possession of any amount of marijuana 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 marijuana-related, according to data compiled by the group South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws. Ninety-five percent of all cannabis arrests in South Dakota were for possession. According to an analysis of marijuana arrest data compiled by the ACLU, Black Americans in South Dakota are five times more likely than whites to be arrested for possessing cannabis.

Voters in Arizona, Montana, and New Jersey, will also decide on adult-use legalization ballot initiatives on Election Day, while voters in Mississippi will decide between two dueling measures specific to regulating medical cannabis use.

For more information on the South Dakota Campaign efforts, visit  South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws and NORML’s Election Hub.