Proponents and opponents of legalizing recreational marijuana in South Dakota had to wait a bit longer Tuesday to see if voters will approve or reject Initiated Measure 27.
As of 10:15 p.m. Tuesday, the measure was failing by 11 percentage points, but several precincts were still out, making the race too close to call.
The measure would legalize the possession, use and distribution of marijuana, if approved by voters.
The six-section measure would allow marijuana possession, use and distribution for those 21 years and older, although people could only possess up to one ounce of marijuana.
According to the measure, Title 34 in state law would be amended to add a new section that would not regulate marijuana or marijuana accessories. Marijuana is defined as the plant of the genus cannabis and any part of the plant, including seeds, resin extracted from the plant and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture or preparation of the plant, seed or resin, including hash and marijuana concentrate.
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As defined in the measure, it does not include hemp, or fiber produced from the stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of the plant, sterilized seed of the plant which is incapable of germination, or the weight of any other ingredient combined with marijuana to prepare topical or oral administrations, food, drink or other products.
Marijuana accessory is defined as equipment, product, material specifically designed for use in planting, propagating, cultivating, growing, harvesting, manufacturing, compounding, converting, producing, processing, preparing, testing, analyzing, packaging, repackaging, storing, containing, ingesting, inhaling or otherwise introducing marijuana into the human body.
The measure would add a new section to Title 34 that those at least 21 years or older would not be subject to arrest, penalty or fine, or be a basis for the denial of any right or privilege or be a basis for asset seizure or forfeiture to possess, use, ingest, inhale, process, transport or distribute one ounce or less of marijuana and not more than eight grams of marijuana in concentrated form.
A person 21 years or older would also not be subjected to penalties if they possess, plant, cultivate, harvest, dry, process or manufacture not more than three plants and possess the marijuana produced by the plants if: the plants and marijuana produced is in excess of one ounce are kept at a private residence, locked in a space and not visible from a public place; not more than six plants are kept at a residence at one time; and the private residence is within a jurisdiction of local government where there is no licensed retail store where marijuana is available for purchase pursuant to the chapter.
However, it would not retroactively change criminal charges or cases.
According to the measure, people would be subjected to penalties if they cultivate plants that are visible from a public space and could face a fine of $250, cultivate plants not kept in a locked space and could face a fine of $250, smoke marijuana in a public places other than in an area licensed for such activity and face a fine of $100, and is under 21 years old and possesses, uses, ingests, inhales, transports, delivers or distributes without consideration one ounce or less of marijuana or marijuana accessories and face a fine of $100. Those who violate the law could also be provided with an option of attending up to four hours of drug education or counseling in lieu of the penalty.
Matthew Schweich, campaign manager for Yes on 27, said this is a good policy that will allow law enforcement to focus on "real crime" and free up legal resources for other crimes. He also said this would expand access for patients having difficulties getting medical cards, and remove the burden of cannabis-related arrests and convictions that stand in the way of housing, employment and education.
Protecting South Dakota Kids, however, is against the measure and fears the messages it could send to kids. Protecting South Dakota Kids is a Rapid City-based grassroots coalition formed by concerned citizens, healthcare professionals, pastors, educators and others.
Chair Jim Kinyon said this is the worst time to introduce this legislation. Kinyon also serves as the executive director and counseling director at Catholic Social Services. He said as a mental health provider, he sees many kids and families negatively impacted by marijuana.
He said the mental health system is already overwhelmed and overtaxed, and having to put kids on waiting lists when they're possibly suicidal is heartbreaking.