Voters may see cannabis, tobacco tax on South Dakota ballot
By JAMES NORD
Nov. 07, 2017
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota voters won't have the chance to legalize physician-assisted dying or recreational marijuana in 2018, but they could decide whether to allow patients to use cannabis medically — plus a raft of other proposals on Election Day.
Initiative groups hoping to go before voters in 2018 faced a crucial Monday deadline to turn in signatures to the secretary of state. Campaigns for eight measures have submitted petitions for review.
Initiated measures need nearly 14,000 valid signatures, while constitutional amendments require almost 28,000 valid names.
Secretary of State Shantel Krebs' office conducts a random sampling of signatures to determine validity. Krebs said she hopes the review of all submitted measures will be finished within four months.
Here's a look at the initiatives submitted to go before voters:
Medical marijuana supporters submitted about 15,000 signatures — narrowly exceeding the required valid signature count — for an initiative that would allow patients with serious medical conditions and a health practitioner's recommendation to use marijuana. Qualifying patients, such as people with cancer, AIDS and hepatitis C, would be able to get a registration card to possess up to 3 ounces of the plant. Last year, the Secretary of State's office said backers didn't turn in enough valid signatures to get on the ballot.
OUT OF OUR STATE
House Speaker Mark Mickelson turned in slightly more than 18,000 signatures for an initiative that would ban out-of-state political contributions for ballot questions. The move comes after out-of-state donors pumped over $10 million into campaigns for or against South Dakota questions during the 2016 election cycle. A similar bill capping out-of-state contributions failed in the Legislature this year, and experts have said such measures are unlikely to survive a legal challenge.
TOBACCO TAXES FOR TECH SCHOOLS
Another Mickelson-backed ballot measure would impose a $1 tax hike on a standard pack of cigarettes to make South Dakota's four technical institutes more affordable.
He turned in more than 19,000 signatures for the proposed ballot measure, which would increase taxes on different tobacco products including the $1 hike per 20-cigarette pack. South Dakota's tax is currently $1.53 per pack, according to the Tax Foundation, an independent tax policy nonprofit.
Supporters of a constitutional amendment that would take control of redistricting from South Dakota legislators and give it to an independent commission turned in more than 34,000 signatures. The commission would consist of nine people with no more than three from any one political party. It mirrors a constitutional amendment that South Dakota voters rejected last year.
The constitutional amendment would move South Dakota to an open primary system for many races. Supporters turned in more than 37,000 signatures for the plan, which would have the top two finishers in a primary advance to the general election regardless of party. It would apply to primaries for county offices, Legislature, governor and U.S. House and Senate.
The 2018 push comes after a similar amendment failed at the polls last year.
VOTING AT HOME
Supporters of a proposed ballot measure that would allow South Dakota counties to switch to elections conducted entirely by mail ballot handed over nearly 20,000 signatures. Under the proposal, county commissioners could vote to dispense with polling places and require primary, special and general elections to be conducted via mail ballot.
PRESCRIPTION PRICE CAP
The measure — adapted from an Ohio initiative that's on the ballot this year — would prohibit state agencies from paying more than the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for prescription drugs. Backers submitted more than 22,000 signatures for the plan.
Industry groups have appealed to the South Dakota Supreme Court after a state judge rejected their challenge to Attorney General Marty Jackley's explanation of the initiative.
ETHICS IN EARLY
Ahead of other campaigns, supporters of a proposed government ethics constitutional amendment last month turned in more than 50,000 signatures for their measure. The amendment would tighten campaign finance and lobbying restrictions, create an independent ethics commission and require that laws changing the ballot question process pass a public vote, among other provisions.
The proposal would replace a voter-imposed ethics overhaul that South Dakota lawmakers repealed this year.
DIDN'T MAKE IT
The recreational marijuana plan aimed to allow people 21 and older to possess and use marijuana, but a writing error had called it into question. A state interpretation of the wording found it would have only legalized marijuana paraphernalia, but supporters said the problem could be fixed later.
New Approach South Dakota director Melissa Mentele said supporters came close to being able to submit the recreational use measure, but said the group's primary focus was the medical cannabis proposal.
A ballot questions that would have let terminally ill people get prescriptions for drugs to end their own lives didn't have enough volunteers out collecting signatures, measure sponsor Angela Albonico said.
Under the plan, state-licensed physicians would have been able to prescribe life-ending drugs to South Dakota patients who have diseases expected to kill them within six months.
Two other proposed measures approved for circulation also won't appear on the ballot: one would have made it harder for the Legislature to tamper with voter initiatives, and the other would have legalized marijuana and established April 20 as "Cannabis Day."