Group pushing to legalize marijuana in South Dakota

PIERRE, S.D. (KCCR-AM) - A push to legalize recreational use of marijuana is now on in South Dakota. It will target tax revenue and jobs.

Kevin Larsen with KCCR Radio reports that New Approach South Dakota will submit the proposal for an initiated measure to go to a statewide vote on the 2018 ballot. The group will also submit a proposal for medical marijuana.

New Approach South Dakota Chairperson Melissa Mentele of Emery says legalizing recreational cannabis would generate millions.

"We have a recreational cannabis bill, which is new to South Dakota this year. It's a good bill, it brings in lots of revenue for the state and for educators. We're just waiting the Attorney General's summery on that, and then we will get started circulating in the state," Mentele says.

A separate measure reviving the medical marijuana issue has also been submitted for the statewide ballot process, says Mentele.

"We have a medical cannabis bill, which is very similar to our 2016 ballot initiative, language is the same. We did leave that all in place because we had a great support group and support following in South Dakota," she says.

A notary error was the reason the medical marijuana measure failed to qualify for the statewide ballot in 2016.

Mentele adds that South Dakotans are ready to have serious conversations about legalizing marijuana.

"We keep getting weak legislation or legislation that really doesn't reflect who we are as South Dakotans. We've been focusing on these bathroom bills for two years," Mentele says. "I think people are ready to have fresh conversations for things that are really going to benefit our state."

She adds that marijuana is a $6 billion dollar industry in the county and South Dakota is missing out.