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Majority of South Dakota Voters Oppose Weed Legalization Initiative

A.J. Herrington

By A.J. Herrington

August 31, 2022

Marijuana cultivation concept. Hemp weed indoor grow. Cannabis seedling on a black background. close up. With light tinted

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A statewide poll of

residents shows that a majority of voters are opposed to a ballot measure to legalize recreational cannabis. The measure will appear on the ballot for this year’s general election. Voters will decide on the proposal to legalize cannabis, dubbed Initiated Measure 27 (IM-27), when they go to the polls on November 8.

If passed into law, IM 27 would legalize the possession, use and distribution of marijuana by those 21 and older. Adults would be permitted to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to three cannabis plants at home in areas where recreational marijuana is not commercially available.

The poll of 500 registered voters was commissioned by South Dakota News Watch and the Chiesman Center for Democracy at the University of South Dakota and conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy of Florida from July 19 through July 22. The statewide survey found that 54.4 percent of voters oppose the legalization initiative, while only 43.8 percent of respondents said they are in favor of the ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana.

The poll determined that 27.4 percent of respondents strongly support legalizing recreational marijuana and 16.4 percent were somewhat supportive. However, 39.4 percent said that they are strongly opposed to legalization while 15.0 percent are somewhat opposed, while 1.8 percent said they are unsure.

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Cannabis Advocates Question Poll Results

Matthew Schweich, campaign director for South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, the group spearheading the drive to pass IM 27, questioned the results of the poll. 

“When I look a little deeper, I found things that do not make sense to me,”

. “Some of the numbers don’t really make sense and conflict strongly with previous data that we’ve seen.”

Schweich noted that a  2020 ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana was passed by voters, although the initiative was later struck down by the courts. Another 2020 initiative to legalize medical marijuana was approved. Seventy percent of the vote was not challenged and is now in the process of being implemented. Additionally, previous polls have consistently shown strong support for marijuana legalization.

“I see this as a flawed poll, but one that I still need to keep in the back of my head as motivation to keep working hard,” Schweich said. “I’m not going to dismiss this poll entirely, and it’s a reminder that we have to work really hard and not take anything for granted because in recent times, it’s gotten harder and harder to predict what an electorate will look like.”

IM 27 is opposed by the group Protecting South Dakota’s Kids, a political action committee formed in July. Jim Kinyon, a certified mental health counselor who also serves as executive director of Catholic Social Services, is the group’s chair.

“South Dakota is coming to our senses; we’re starting to see that this isn’t going to make us free and happy,” Kinyon said about the poll’s results.

Nick Horsted, executive director of the

noted that South Dakota’s marijuana laws are some of the strictest in the United States and are leading to a vast expenditure of state resources to prosecute and imprison people for offenses as minor as simple possession. After reviewing the results of the poll, he said that the remaining few months before the election will be critical in the outcome of the November vote on IM 27.

“If you look at the people who were undecided and those who were somewhat supportive or opposed to legalization, you’re looking at almost a third of the people who haven’t made up their minds yet,” he said. “There’s plenty of time for South Dakotans to talk about this and determine if indeed it is time to stop wasting taxpayer money on prosecuting small-level marijuana crimes.”

A.J. Herrington

About The Author

A.J. Herrington

HIGH THERE MISSION

WE’RE A CREATIVE COMMUNITY — EXPLORING THE SCIENCE, CRAFT, AND CULTURE OF CANNABIS.
WE BELIEVE THAT WE HAVE A COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY TOWARDS ERADICATING THE STIGMA, MISINFORMATION, AND INEQUITIES SURROUNDING THIS PLANT, SO WE CAN UNLOCK ITS TRUE POTENTIAL FOR ALL.

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