Majority Of South Dakotans Are Against Recreational Cannabis Legalization, New Poll Finds

Zinger Key Points
  • A new survey shows 52% of registered voters are against the measure legalizing adult-use cannabis, versus 42% who support it.
  • The youngest group surveyed (ages 18-34) was the most supportive of the measure, but even that one had only 48% in favor.

The majority of South Dakotans are against legalizing recreational use in the state, a new poll reveals.

According to a statewide survey, sponsored by the Chiesman Center for Democracy at the University of South Dakota and co-sponsored by South Dakota News Watch, 52% of respondents are against the measure legalizing adult-use cannabis, versus 42% who support it. The poll questioned 500 registered voters, and some 7% remain undetermined, writes Dakota News Now.

The poll results come about two weeks after Secretary of State Monae Johnson‘s office officially validated a measure for the November general election ballot that will allow South Dakotans to decide on cannabis legalization for the third time.

Previous efforts to legalize recreational marijuana in the state fell short, with one of those occasions being due to a violation of the single-subject rule. In the Nov. 2020 elections, South Dakota managed to garner some 54% support for legalization, however, the measure was declared unconstitutional.

Then in Nov. 2022, South Dakotans voted against Senate 3 bill that would have legalized adult-use cannabis. The rate of opposition in the newest poll appears consistent with a measure's defeat in 2022, while the level of support seems to have notably dropped.

"We believe that the level of support among voters for Measure 29 is higher than the figure in this latest poll," Matthew Schweich, executive director of South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, whose group spearheaded the petition effort told the outlet. "It's difficult to explain how support could have dropped 12 percentage points in just four years. That type of rapid decrease in public support for cannabis legalization has not occurred in other states."

The proposed ballot measure would permit recreational marijuana use for adults over 21, setting possession limits at 2 ounces or 16 grams of concentrated forms of marijuana and 1,600 mg of THC in products. The proposal excludes provisions for business licensing or taxation, due to a strategic move to comply with the state's strict single-subject rule for amendments.

Powerful Opponents: Republicans, Catholic Leaders

The poll\ revealed that nearly 7 in 10 Republicans (68%) in the state are against the measure, compared to 24% of Democrats and 45% of non-affiliated voters. What's more the South Dakota Republican Party, at its 2024 convention this June approved a resolution calling "all party members and Republican organizations to lend whatever practical support they can to assist in the campaign to defeat Initiated Measure 29."

The Bishops of South Dakota's two Catholic dioceses also formally opposed measures claiming that cannabis "contributes to a host of problems that weaken the social fabric of society."Another big opponent of the legalization comes in the form of a campaign committee formed to fight against recreational cannabis legalization in 2022, Protecting South Dakota Kids. "When it comes to our children, South Dakotans are fiercely protective," Milstead told News Watch. "We say no to any group selling addiction for profit."

The youngest group surveyed (ages 18-34) was the most supportive of the measure, but even that one had only 48% of respondents in favor of legalization and also 48% opposing it. The 35-49 age group was at 45% for legalization, while the 50-64 and 65-plus groups were at 38%.

58% of those who plan to vote for President Biden in the 2024 election were supportive of the measure, versus 37% against. 29% of those backing Donald Trump are in favor of the measure, and 64% are against it.

See Also: South Dakota Nearly Doubles Medical Marijuana Registration Fees, CT. Gov. Lamont Puts Social Equity Funds On Hold & More

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Posted In: CannabisNewsMatthew SchweichMonae JohnsonSouth Dakota Cannabis
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