Updated on December 9, 2017. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Unlike their neighbors to the north, the people of South Dakota seem to have no interest in making medical cannabis available to patients dealing with severe pain every day of their lives. South Dakota medical marijuana laws remain unchanged, and it continues to be illegal to possess cannabis for any reason. Attempts have been made, but those efforts, unfortunately, will likely face a serious uphill climb for the foreseeable future.
In 2016, a medical cannabis advocacy group pushed to allow voters to decide for themselves if they would change the medical marijuana laws in South Dakota. They reportedly obtained nearly 3,000 more signatures than were required to put the matter on the ballot, but the state’s Secretary of State rejected the petition without any proof that any of the signatures were invalid. The South Dakota Family Coalition for Compassion sued, challenging this automatic disqualification.
Also in 2016, state legislators discussed a medical cannabis bill that would potentially have allowed a small number of patients suffering from certain conditions from being able to legally access cannabidiol, or CBD. However, that bill failed to pass the state House of Representatives.
Unfortunately, even if a proposal to change medical marijuana law in South Dakota ultimately went to the voters, it seems very unlikely it would pass. Even though North Dakota voters approved a medical marijuana initiative in 2016 by a resounding 64 to 32 percent vote, South Dakota residents have resoundingly defeated such initiatives in the past. They voted against a 2006 initiative by a 52 to 47 percent margin, and by 63 to 36 percent in 2010.
The results were so discouraging that one major national marijuana advocacy group decided it would no longer contribute money to any further initiatives in the state, citing doubts that it would have any chance to succeed.
Many experts believe that marijuana laws in South Dakota are among the most stringent in the country — possibly the most stringent. Possessing more than two ounces is considered a felony in the state, and even possessing drug paraphernalia can lead to as many as 30 days in jail and a fine of as much as $500.
Anyone convicted of trying to sell more than a half ounce of weed will have to spend at least 30 days in jail, while someone caught with weed in their vehicle will face a 90-day license suspension — even for a first offense. If someone is caught growing pot, the punishment depends on the amount that was confiscated. The charge could be relatively mild, such as simple possession, or it could be intent to distribute, which results in severe punishment.
While South Dakota medical marijuana laws are discouraging, there is always the chance an initiative will finally be brought to the voters that they can accept. In the meantime, we’ll continue to keep you updated. Check back with MarijuanaDoctors.com often for any further updates.