Among the states that are currently host to cannabis-centered ballot initiatives (like Michigan and Utah), South Dakota has run into an unexpected kind of trouble. A single sentence contained within the eleven pages of the proposal undermines the attempt at legalization-by only legalizing cannabis paraphernalia, not cannabis itself.
In the section of the proposal that details laws surrounding paraphernalia, the language therein addresses the “law of the state or subdivision.” However, in the part of the proposal that contains the specifics of how cannabis will be handled, the “state or…” part is not present. It only addresses the law of the subdivision, a glaring error that could massively set this initiative back.
Basically, the initiative wouldn’t affect state law regarding the legalization of recreational cannabis.
Director of New Approach Melissa Mentele clarified that she had written the measure based on an existing statute that can later be addressed by the courts or the Legislature. “There is a fix for it, so I’m not concerned about it at all. It’s just a typo. It’s one person’s perception of grammar versus another’s,” she said of the error.
A ballot measure must gain a minimum amount of signatures before it can be placed before state voters, and an amended proposal will effectively wipe away the existing signatures in support of the initiative. So while there may be “a fix” for this problem, the sacrifice of these signatures could be hugely detrimental to the progress of the initiative itself.
Jesse Kelley of the Marijuana Policy Project, who helped Mentele to draft the proposal, says that this is not a new situation that South Dakota is facing. The MPP attorney plans to continue working with Mentele to push the initiative forward and make amendments when it is deemed necessary.
To get the ballot to voters by November 2018, advocates and supporters of this initiative must procure at least 14,000 valid signatures.