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South Dakota approves recreational, medical marijuana

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota became the first state in the tri-state region to legalize recreational marijuana on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Montana, Arizona and New Jersey also approved the sale of marijuana on Tuesday.

Those votes mean recreational marijuana is legal in 15 states and Washington, D.C.

South Dakota and Mississippi also approved medical marijuana measures, bringing the total nationwide to 34 states.

North Dakota has a medical marijuana program with sales in a series of dispensaries around the state, but soundly rejected recreational marijuana in 2018 by a 59% to 40% margin. An effort to garner enough signatures in the state for a constitutional amendment fell short this year, and an initiated ballot measure effort was abandoned because of the pandemic.

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Minnesota also has legalized medicinal marijuana, and Gov. Tim Walz has said he favors legalizing recreational use there.

In South Dakota, the recreational constitutional amendment passed with 200,574 votes in favor, or 53%, to 174,932 opposed, or 47%, according to the state's secretary of state website.

The amendment will legalize, regulate and tax marijuana. It also requires the state Legislature to pass laws regarding hemp. The measure legalizes the possession, transportation and distribution of up to an ounce of marijuana to adults 21 and over.

It takes effect July 1.

In an initiated measure on medical marijuana, the margin was much greater, with 260,795 or 69%, of votes in favor and 116,050, or 31%, opposed.

In the final days of the South Dakota election, numerous television ads, one featuring former U.S. Attorney for South Dakota Randy Seiler, promoted the measures arguing the current law affected people looking for jobs and being able to obtain rental housing.

Gov. Kristi Noem and most state legislators strongly opposed the measure.

In Oregon on Tuesday, voters also decriminalized, but didn't legalize, all drugs including cocaine and heroin and approved a separate measure for supervised therapeutic uses of psychedelic mushrooms. They are the first state in the U.S. to decriminalize all drugs.

An almost 50-year veteran of the newspaper business, Amundson has worked for The Forum and Forum News Service for 15 years. He started as a sport reporter in Minnesota. He is currently the city and night reporter for The Forum. bamundson@forumcomm.com 701-451-5665
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