The majority of South Dakota voters say they’ll support legalizing marijuana when they cast ballots in the November election.
That’s according to a statewide poll done by the campaign committee No Way On A, organized by the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Industry in opposition to Constitutional Amendment A, which would allow all adults 21 and over to consume marijuana in South Dakota.
Chamber President David Owen told the Argus Leader Friday that the poll, conducted in cooperation between Sioux Falls marketing firm Lawrence and Schiller and right-leaning Public Opinion Strategies, found about 60% of respondents said they planned to vote in favor of Constitutional Amendment A. Initiated Measure 26, which would legalize marijuana for adults with qualifying health conditions, had an approval rating in the 70% range.
But Owen, whose group is neutral on medical marijuana, said a closer look at the more finite details of the polling show voters might not understand the difference between the two ballot measures.
“Going back to the numbers, we know that a significant portion of that majority for (legalized recreational marijuana use) thinks it’s related to medical,” he said.
Of those polled on Constitutional Amendment A, which directs the Legislature to establish a medical marijuana program, 26% said they supported the measure because of marijuana’s medical use, 19% because they believe marijuana helps people and 13% because it treats conditions.
Owen said its the position of No Way on A that those respondents don’t realize South Dakota has a path to legalized medical marijuana without amending the state Constitution and legalizing marijuana for recreational use.
Pro-marijuana advocates and those leading the effort to loosen South Dakota’s marijuana laws say that passing both Constitutional Amendment A and Initiated Measure 26 at the same time is the only way to ensure the Legislature doesn’t tinker with the measures if adopted by voters in November.
Initiated measures can be amended by elected lawmakers through the legislative process. In contrast, to change an approved constitutional amendment requires another vote of the people.
That dozens of lawmakers as well as Gov. Kristi Noem have voiced their opposition to any loosening of marijuana laws in South Dakota is fueling those concerns.
“I don’t trust that if we have one pass and not the other that they wouldn’t go in and remove key parts of the bill,” said Melissa Mentele, director of New Approach South Dakota.