I don’t know if the delay came from marijuana advocates or our inattentive Attorney General, but supporters of Amendment A have let slip without action two weeks of the precious 40 days of circulation time they had for their Plan B initiative petitions. Where the original LRC response dates on their initiative drafts indicate that South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws could have had petitions on the street to collect signatures starting September 28, Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg did not produce the A.G. statements that must be printed on each petition sheet and circulator handout until Friday, October 8.
The Legislative Research Council was a little quicker, producing its fiscal notes for the four marijuana initiatives on Tuesday, October 5. The LRC determined that the fifth proposed initiative, an amendment to repeal the odious single-subject rule for initiated amendments, would not impact the state’s revenues or expenses.
See those A.G. statements and fiscal notes here:
The fiscal notes indicate that the broader marijuana measures, the six-paragraph amendment and the thirteen-section law, would generate $63.9 million in state sales and excise tax over the first three years. The shorter amendment and law, which omit the provision for a 15% excise tax on weed, would generate $14.3 million in plain old sales tax Fiscal Years 2024–2026.
Note that of the measures that include the weed excise tax, only the initiated law would be subject to Amendment C (née 2021 HJR 5003), the 60% vote requirement that Republicans hope to foist upon us in the June primary. The thirteen-section marijuana law would directly impose the 15% excise tax, thus triggering Amendment C’s requirement of 60% voter approval for any measure increasing or imposing taxes. The six-section marijuana amendment permits the Legislature to impose an excise tax but does not do so itself; under Amendment C, that amendment could thus still pass by a simple majority.
South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws still needs the Secretary of State’s approval to circulate. Given that the A.G. didn’t hand in his statement until Friday and that today is a holiday, the Secretary of State likely won’t approve petitions for circulation until tomorrow, leaving petition sponsors a scant 27 days to collect 33,921 signatures for the initiated amendment petitions and 16,961 signatures for the initiated law petitions and submit those signed and notary-sealed petitions to Pierre.
In an email to supporters Saturday, SDBML said it is launching its signature drive “this month” and needs to collect 17,000 signatures. That figure indicates that SDBML will settle for an initiated law as its backup plan to Amendment A, a choice likely dictated by the extremely narrow timeframe remaining to gather signatures. SDBML is soliciting volunteers for what will have to be an all-out circulation blitz.
Related Reading: Not to deflate any last-minute petition enthusiasm, but if SDBML can’t organize a successful 27-day statewide petition drive, and if the Supreme Court supports the circuit court’s overturning of Amendment A, all may not be lost for cannabis cravers. During her push last week to distract from her nepotism and frequent-flyer miles and look like she’s actually governing, Governor Kristi Noem told legislators that she won’t be prioritizing cannabis policy during the 2022 Session. So if there really is strong support for legalizing marijuana, advocates may find a more open door for their lobbying efforts in Pierre this winter.