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Marijuana Could Define 2021 Legislative Session


 Backers of a marijuana ballot measure say they’re looking forward to working with South Dakota lawmakers on cannabis reform to keep it safe and well regulated. 


But… several state lawmakers have questions about the addition to the state constitution.  


South Dakota voters approved a ballot question to place recreational and medical marijuana—as well as industrial hemp—into the state constitution. 


That question was approved by 54 percent of the 427,000 South Dakota voters who cast a ballot this election year. That’s the highest number of voters in over thirty years. 


Brendan Johnson is the president of South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws.  


“The will of the people spoke loudly and clearly,” Johnson says. “That they do not want marijuana prohibition in South Dakota any longer. That is something that should be respected by every government official and not something that is open for compromise.” 


Some state lawmakers have concerns with what the voters passed. That’s according to State Senator Lee Schoenbeck, a Republican from Watertown, who will likely be the top-ranking Republican in the senate. 


He says the Attorney General should comb over the amendment to make sure it passes constitutional muster, while also looking out for any inconsistencies within the amendment. Schoenbeck says if issues arise, the Attorney General can ask the courts for help. 


“We really do need to have that fine-tooth examination, and, if there are questions, determination,” Schoenbeck says. “So that we can do the job the voters sent us to do. It doesn’t matter that most of us don’t like it. It doesn’t matter. The voters have the right to do whatever they want.” 


The Attorney General’s office did not return requests for comment.  


Senate Majority Leader, Republican Gary Cammack, says he anticipates marijuana reform taking up a large chunk of the upcoming session.  


Recreational and medical marijuana aren’t legal in South Dakota until July 1, 2021.