November 3, 2020 has undoubtedly been a historic day for marijuana reform. On this election day, 4 states chose to legalize cannabis. One of those states, South Dakota, took the biggest stride forward when it legalized both medical and recreational marijuana at the same time.
Residents of the Sunshine State came out strong, voting in favor of medical marijuana by a huge margin of 70% to 30%. Cannabis is now legal for patients with debilitating conditions under Measure 26.
Meanwhile, as much as 54% percent voted yes on Constitutional Amendment A which legalizes adult-use marijuana for people 21 and older and requires the legislature to pass laws governing medical marijuana and hemp sales.
Marijuana Policy Project deputy director Matthew Schweich remarked that in the past, nobody would have expected that South Dakota would legalize marijuana before New York, so the victory effectively showed the power of the ballot initiative process. MPP was noted to have played a big role in the legalization campaign which was run with South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws and New Approach South Dakota.
Both measures are set to become effective on July 1, 2021. This means that there are still a few months before marijuana becomes completely legal in South Dakota. In addition to this, it may still take the legislature a few months to finalize all the rules.
Overview of Cannabis Growing Laws in South Dakota
Although South Dakotans have already given weed a green light, the law is still a few months away from coming into full force. However, this is what’s going to be legal under Amendment A and Measure 26:
Recreational – Adults 21 years and older will be allowed to possess, purchase, and distribute up to an ounce and cultivate up to 3 plants at home.
Medical – Meanwhile, patients with qualifying conditions, along with their caregivers, will be allowed to possess and purchase up to 3 ounces.
Punishments for Violating South Dakota’s Home Grow Laws
South Dakota was known as a state that had a highly conservative stance on weed, having some of the harshest marijuana penalties in the US. Even after Amendment A and Measure 26 takes effect, the penalties for possession and distribution of more than an ounce are still relatively heavy.
- Possession – The possession of 2 ounces or less is a misdemeanor punishable by a prison sentence of up to a year and a maximum fine of up to $2000. Possession of more than 2 ounces or more is considered a felony.
- More than 2 ounces to half a pound – a Class 6 felony punishable by up to 2 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $4000
- More than half a pound to one pound – a Class 5 felony punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $10,000
- More than a pound to 10 pounds – a Class 4 felony punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $20,000
- More than 10 pounds – a Class 3 felony punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $30,000
- Sale -Selling less than half an ounce of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by a minimum mandatory prison sentence of 15 days up to a year and a maximum fine of $2000. First felony convictions get a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 days imprisonment while subsequent convictions get a year.
- An ounce or less – used to be punishable as a Class 6 felony. This will no longer be illegal after July 1, 2021.
- More than an ounce to half a pound, or selling an ounce or less to a minor – a Class 5 felony.
- More than half a pound to one pound, or selling more than an ounce to half a pound to a minor – a Class 4 felony.
- More than a pound, or selling more than half a pound to a pound to a minor – a Class 3 felony.
- Selling more than a pound to a minor – a Class 2 felony punishable by up to 25 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $50,000.
- Cultivation – The punishment for illegal cultivation of marijuana can either be charged as simple possession or with intent to distribute, depending on the weight of the confiscated plants. Additionally, there is a penalty of $250 is the marijuana plants are not grown in a locked space, or if the plants are visible to the public.
History of marijuana in South Dakota
South Dakota’s marijuana situation has been seen as somewhat of an outlier since it practically “leapfrogged” the typically lengthy and multi-stepped process of marijuana legalization seen in most other states. However, it can be argued that it had been a long time coming and South Dakotans voting in favor of cannabis was just a case of the levee breaking.
As early as 1977, the state decriminalized small amounts but was repealed right after. Efforts to legalize medical marijuana began to pick up momentum around 2006 to 2016 when a few initiatives made it to the ballots. Unfortunately, none were able to prosper but it was apparent that during those years, the opinions of South Dakotans were starting to turn. During that time around 2015, pro-marijuana groups such as South Dakotans Against Prohibition (SDAP) maintained efforts by running a signature campaign to get a weed decriminalization initiative to the ballot but failed. Activists tried again in 2018 to get a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot but with no success.
In the following year, however, finally came Amendment A and Measure 26 which got certified by the Secretary of State for the ballot, despite the staunch opposition of the state’s Republican governor Kristi Noem. In 2020, South Dakota officially became the first state to have legalized medical and recreational marijuana at the same time.
Marijuana home cultivation laws outside of South Dakota
How does South Dakota’s marijuana laws compare with home growing laws in other US states? Check out our post on Marijuana Growing Laws in the United States.
FAQs about growing marijuana in Minnesota
Yes, adult-use cannabis is now legal in South Dakota.
Adults in South Dakota aged 21 and older may grow at home as many as 3 plants for themselves and up to 6 per household.
Yes, it is legal to grow marijuana at home in South Dakota for medical use.
Under Measure 26, qualified patients and their caregivers may grow a minimum of 3 plants per person.
At home, in a locked space where the plants are not visible to the public.
Growers need to be at least 21 years old.
The results of the marijuana legalization vote in South Dakota alone sends a big message to the federal government and other government officials still adamantly opposed to any kind of marijuana reform. According to NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri, the votes served as a stunning rebuke to South Dakota’s elected officials who have for years refused to move forward with substantive marijuana law reform legislation. He also pointed out that it was an indicator of the near-universal popularity of similar policy changes among voters in all regions of the US.