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Marijuana Laws and Policies in South Dakota

Known for being a very cautious and traditional state in the USA, South Dakota has never been a place that one would expect to have a cannabis scene. As a state that is quite strict when it comes to the laws, both medical and recreational cannabis were outlawed ever since its initial prohibition during the early years of the 20th century!

This has left to become one of the very few US states to ban and prohibit even the medical utilization of marijuana.

This, of course, began to change just recently as the whole world (including various US states) has started turning towards another view on marijuana and cannabis consumption. South Dakota, during the November 2020 US elections, was able to successfully legalize both medical and recreational cannabis. It became the first US state to simultaneously lift its cannabis restrictions for both purposes at the same time.

History of Cannabis in South Dakota

During the 20th century, many parts of the world took the initiative to slowly stop all cannabis-related activities in their areas due to the adverse effects that users displayed. The sudden drop in productivity rates from workers who were known to regularly use marijuana resulted in a worldwide ban that lasted for well over a hundred years.

South Dakota, along with other US states, effectively embargoed all marijuana sources within their borders at a state-wide level.

During 1977, the state government looked to decriminalize marijuana possession as a means of reducing the criminal offenses handed to those caught carrying weed in public. While residents of the state were able to enjoy its decriminalization, it was very short-lived as the policy was overturned within a short period of time.

From the years 2006 all the way to the present, many other pushes for medical marijuana legalization and cannabis decriminalization have taken place. US elections in 2006 and 2010 both contained initiatives which presented residents with the opportunity to allow marijuana for health treatment. Both years saw an insufficient number of votes, thereby failing to legalize medical marijuana.

The 2016 ballot was also supposed to contain a policy which looked to decriminalize marijuana possession of up to one ounce or less. It would instead subject those carrying the amount to civil infractions rather than criminal offenses. The petition to include it within the ballot, however, failed to gather the necessary amount of votes despite many other parts of the USA legalizing cannabis.

The 2017 elections presented a good opportunity for medical marijuana legalization as it received the most votes compared to any other ballot presented. However, it still fell short of the required amount of votes.

Legalization of recreational and medical cannabis:

Things took a major turn in the year 2020 as cannabis laws and reforms reshaped the cannabis scene found in Dakota. Steve Barnett, who is currently the Secretary of State in South Dakota, approved of the inclusion of Initiated Measure 26 in the 2020 voting ballot. The law called for the legalization of medical marijuana within South Dakota.

Furthermore, the Constitutional Amendment A was also included in the year’s voting ballot. This, in turn, was a means of legalizing recreational cannabis in South Dakota. History was made as it became the very first US state to permit the use of such within the same year! South Dakota was able to bypass numerous drawbacks and effectively lift the cannabis restrictions by way of vote. These laws are expected to take place by mid-2021, with official frameworks for the operations of both cannabis programs to be implemented soon.

Cannabis Regulation Body

With the legalization of cannabis taking place just very recently, there are still currently no specific guidelines released for its program implementations.

As such, there are still no regulating bodies established for the operations and overseeing of cannabis activities in South Dakota. We will first need to wait for the implementation of the following policies before having any cannabis regulation bodies in place.

Medical Cannabis

While medical cannabis has been legalized in South Dakota, there are still no guidelines for the implementation of the program. However, we can expect that similar rules and regulations are consistent with those of other states.

The medical marijuana program to be established in South Dakota will also come up with a following application and registration system for patients, caregivers, physicians, distributors, and cultivators to obtain licenses from.

The list of qualifying conditions for the medical marijuana program in South Dakota can also be expected to cover some of the most common health conditions that typically call for cannabis treatment. Some of the approved ones that we know of as early as now include: Epilepsy and seizures, chronic pain, nausea, wasting syndrome, multiple sclerosis, joint inflammations, and other conditions deemed qualified by attending physicians.

Other Cannabis Laws to Expect in South Dakota

Legal age:

The laws of cannabis in South Dakota are expected to be put into effect on July 21, 2021. Of the cannabis laws that we know of, the legal age for South Dakota residences to consume adult-use cannabis will be set to 21 years old.

Medical patients will need to be at least 18 years old to make full use of the medical marijuana program in the state. Minors will also be allowed to do so, albeit subject to much more stringent conditions.

Possession and purchasing limits:

Adults are allowed to possess and purchase up to one ounce of dried cannabis flowers and/or eight (8) grams of cannabis extracts/concentrates. Medical marijuana patients will be allowed to possess and purchase up to three (3) ounces of usable marijuana for their health treatment.


Public consumption of cannabis will also be banned and prohibited. With social lounges and smoking cafes still being far off, cannabis consumption must only be done in private households and properties. Driving/operating any vehicle while under the influence of cannabis will remain a criminal action subject to charges. Smoking in a parked vehicle located in a public parkway is also prohibited.


Adults will also be allowed to plant and cultivate up to three (3) cannabis plants in private provided that their households are located in an area with no accessible dispensaries nearby. Medical patients will also be allowed to cultivate a minimum of three (3) cannabis plants for their medical supplies. However, this is still unclear and will most likely be subject to an attending physician’s recommendations.

The state of South Dakota may have been a little late in implementing laws and regulations for its cannabis scene. However, it is surely on the right track as the coming months will prove to be very progressive for its cannabis scenes. With the legalization of medical and adult-use cannabis in the state, South Dakota will contribute greatly to the marijuana industry of the USA.