South Dakota Governor Says Voters Made The ‘Wrong Choice’ By Legalizing Marijuana
South Dakota residents wanted to legalize cannabis. Their governor is less than thrilled.
Just days after South Dakota legalized both medical and recreational marijuana in Tuesday’s election, Republican Gov. Kristi Noem has said that the state’s voters made the “wrong choice.” Noem made the comments in a statement that was published by Dakota News Now on Thursday.
“I was personally opposed to these measures and firmly believe they’re the wrong choice for South Dakota’s communities,” Noem said.
“We need to be finding ways to strengthen our families, and I think we’re taking a step backward in that effort,” added the first-term governor.
Both Recreational And Medical Marijuana On SD Ballot
Two cannabis measures appeared on the ballot in South Dakota, where voters were asked to decide on legalizing recreational cannabis and medical marijuana separately. Initiated Measure 26 directs the South Dakota Department of Health to establish a registration system for patients with qualifying health conditions, including those that cause severe pain, seizures, muscle spasms, or nausea. The measure allows registered patients to possess up to three ounces of cannabis and establishes a regulatory and taxation framework for the production of commercial medical cannabis.
Voters also approved Amendment A, which legalizes the use of cannabis by adults 21 and up. Possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and cultivation of up to three cannabis plants is permitted by the measure. The state Department of Revenue will be responsible for licensing commercial marijuana businesses and establishing regulations to govern their operation. Sales of non-medical cannabis will be taxed at a rate of 15%, with half of the proceeds going to South Dakota public schools and the remainder to the state’s general fund. Both ballot measures were supported by South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws.
State Officials Work To Implement Legalization
The South Dakota Revenue Department announced on Wednesday that it was working with the state Department of Health to draft regulations to implement the two initiatives, which take effect on July 1 of next year. Under the initiatives, the revenue department must create a system for licensing commercial businesses by April 2022. Despite Noem’s resistance to legal marijuana on public safety grounds, she bemoaned the regulatory infrastructure necessary to implement a safe marijuana market in accordance with voter’s wishes.
“I’m also very disappointed that we will be growing state government by millions of dollars in costs to public safety and to set up this new regulatory system,” she said in Thursday’s statement.
Governor Campaigned Against Pot Initiatives
In the run up to the election, Noem campaigned against both cannabis legalization initiatives, urging South Dakotans to vote against the measures in television commercials and other political advertisements.
“I ran for governor telling people that I wanted to build stronger families and create more opportunities for our kids, and I just don’t see smoking pot as a gateway to helping people be better,” the governor said in an October interview.
But supporters of the initiatives said that Noem’s opposition was contrary to her professed belief in personal freedom, which she touted as justification for her refusal to enact a stay-at-home order or mask mandate during the coronavirus pandemic. South Dakota currently has a COVID-19 virus testing positivity rate of 51%.
“Without getting into the issue of the governor’s position on COVID-prevention itself, I absolutely believe that the governor’s many statements on freedom and personal responsibility are at odds with her position on the marijuana legalization reforms embodied in Amendment A and Measure 26, which are interconnected,” Drey Samuelson, political director of South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, said before the election.