South Dakota Senate approves adult-use cannabis legalization bill

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In an attempt to head off an expected ballot measure in the fall, the upper chamber of the South Dakota Legislature formally greenlighted an adult-use cannabis legalization bill.

According to the Associated Press, the GOP-controlled South Dakota Senate on Wednesday approved the bill by one vote, which indicates how divisive legalization remains in the state.

The bill now heads to the state House of Representatives, where its fate is anything but certain given conservative opposition to recreational marijuana sales.

Although South Dakota voters easily approved adult-use legalization in the 2020 election by 54%, a state trooper sued to overturn the initiative, a move spearheaded by Republican Gov. Kristi Noem.

Legalization ultimately was struck down last fall when the state Supreme Court ruled that the ballot question had violated the state’s single-subject rule for such measures.

Before the lawsuit was decided, however, a new adult-use campaign had already been launched and is now collecting signatures to qualify for the 2022 ballot in advance of a May deadline.

But the campaign managers have offered to drop the ballot question if lawmakers approve recreational cannabis legalization, according to the AP.

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That is precisely what is driving the Legislature to consider its own version of adult-use legalization, the AP reported.

“This is your opportunity to take control of the issue,” Republican Sen. David Wheeler told the Senate.

“This bill is your opportunity to do what the people said they wanted” in the 2020 ballot measure voters approved.