Hemp Cultivation, Pot Decriminalization Initiatives Appear Likely On November State Ballots

Pierre, South Dakota:  South Dakotans will likely vote this fall on an initiative to lift state criminal restrictions on the possession and production of industrial hemp.  The Secretary of State’s office notified initiative proponents on Monday that they had turned in sufficient signatures to place the question on the November ballot, according to Bob Newland of SoDakNorml and the South Dakota Industrial Hemp Council, which sponsored the measure.

If approved by the voters, the South Dakota Industrial Hemp Act (certified as Initiated Law No. 1) would allow farmers to possess and cultivate marijuana consisting of no more than one percent THC for fiber, food and other commercial purposes.   A 2001 statewide voters’ poll showed that 85 percent of South Dakotans support allowing farmers to grow hemp.  The South Dakota Farmers Union also supports the measure.

Over 30 nations, including Canada, Japan and the European Union, license farmers to grow hemp for industrial purposes.  Presently, three statesNorth Dakota, Montana and West Virginia – have enacted laws legally defining industrial hemp as an agricultural crop distinct from marijuana.  Federal law, however, makes no such distinction and prohibits any cultivation of hemp without federal authorization.

Carson City, Nevada:  Statewide proponents of an initiative that seeks to remove the threat of arrest for pot possession turned in nearly twice the number of signatures necessary to qualify for the November ballot.  That proposal, sponsored by Nevadans for Responsible Law Enforcement, would amend Nevada’s constitution so that possession of up to three ounces of marijuana by individuals 21 years of age or older would no longer be an arrestable offense.

If the Secretary of State validates the initiative for the ballot, voters would have to approve the measure this November and again in 2004 before it would become part of the Nevada constitution.  Nevada voters approved an initiative legalizing the possession and use of medical marijuana in 1998 and 2000.

For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML at (202) 483-5500.  For more information on the South Dakota Industrial Hemp Act, please visit: http://www.sodaknorml.org.