PIERRE, S.D. (Nov. 4, 2020) – Yesterday, South Dakota voters passed two measures legalizing both medical and recreational marijuana despite federal prohibition.

South Dakota is the first state to legalize both medical and recreational marijuana at the same time.

Voters overwhelmingly approved Measure 26 legalizing medical marijuana 69.2 percent to 38.8 percent. The ballot measure establishes a medical marijuana program for patients with qualifying conditions. Patients will be able to possess up to three ounces of marijuana and can grow up to three plants. The measure also establishes a licensing program for commercial production of medical marijuana and sales through licensed dispensaries.

The vote to legalize recreational cannabis was closer, but Amendment A also passed 53.4 percent to 46.6 percent. The measure amends the state constitution to “legalize regulate and tax marijuana, and to require the legislature to pass laws regarding hemp as well as laws ensuring access to marijuana for medical use.” Individuals will be able to possess and distribute up to one ounce of marijuana. Those living in a jurisdiction with no licensed marijuana retailers will be able to grow up to three plants. Local jurisdictions will have the power to ban marijuana businesses.

“No state has ever moved from marijuana prohibition to allowing both medical use and adult-use access, quite literally, overnight,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri told Marijuana Moment. “These votes are a stunning rebuke to those elected officials that for decades have refused to move forward with substantive marijuana 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.”

Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska were the first states to legalize recreational cannabis, and California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts joined them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization passed in November 2016. Michigan followed suit when voters legalized cannabis for general use in 2018. Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana through a legislative act in 2018. Illinois followed suit in 2019. South Dakota joins New Jersey, Montana and Arizona in legalizing recreational marijuana through ballot measures in the 2020 election.

EFFECT ON FEDERAL PROHIBITION

Under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970, the federal government maintains complete prohibition of marijuana. Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate cannabis within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.

Legalization of marijuana in South Dakota takes the next step and removes another layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana in the state even though federal prohibition would remain in effect. This is significant because FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. When states stop enforcing marijuana laws, they sweep away most of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.

Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly-budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.

A GROWING MOVEMENT

South Dakota is one of a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition and nullifying it in practice.

With 36 states now allowing cannabis for medical use, and 15 legalizing for recreational adult-use, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition anymore.

The lesson here is pretty straightforward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats.

 

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