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Marijuana Opponents Say Drug Use In Public Places Will Increase, Amendment A Prohibits It

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A group opposed to a constitutional change that legalizes recreational marijuana, among others, says if approved drug use will proliferate in public places. It also alleges dispensaries will infiltrate downtowns in South Dakota.

Proponents of Amendment A point to the language in the ballot question, which says differently.

A political mailer sent out to Republicans and Independents who registered for a mail-in ballot says Constitutional Amendment A “will put weed dispensaries on main street and allow drug use in public places with families and children.”

David Owen is the president of the group No Way On Amendment A. They’re concerned about the proliferation of marijuana into the community. He says public consumption of marijuana could end up like people smuggling a flask of liquor.

“We see the risk that you make marijuana available on a recreational basis,” Owen says. “A: at least Colorado and California have experienced dispensaries becoming very common. B: we just think you’ve legalized another intoxicant, they’re going to use it.”

However, the constitutional amendment prohibits consumption of marijuana in a public place, other than in an area licensed for marijuana consumption. It also levies and no more than $100 fine for anyone who smokes marijuana in public.

Drey Samuelson is the political director for South Dakotan’s For Better Marijuana Laws. He says the group opposing the question realizes most South Dakotan’s support reforming the state’s marijuana laws. He says the group is resorting to scare tactics.

“They are falsely claiming that Amendment A will put weed dispensaries on main street,” Samuelson says. “But the initiative very clearly states that cities and towns will have the authority to regulate and ban marijuana businesses if they so choose. Our opponents are also claiming that Amendment A would allow marijuana use in public. However, Amendment A does not legalize public consumption. In fact, it penalizes it. Again, this is clearly stated in the text of the initiative.”

Amendment A regulates the recreational use of marijuana for adults 21 and older and lobs a 15 percent tax on the plant. The legislative research council estimates could generate up to thirty million dollars of revenue for the state a year, starting in 2024. That money would get split between public schools and the state’s general fund. It also enshrines medical marijuana and industrial hemp into the state constitution.