Changes to South Dakota Marijuana Laws

Across the country, states continue to change marijuana laws. Some have made it legal to use pot for recreational purposes, while others limit marijuana use to medical purposes.

Sixteen states currently allow marijuana for recreational use by adults over the age of 21, while 27 states have made marijuana legal for medicinal use. Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level.

South Dakota is currently among the states that are considering legalizing marijuana. In February, the South Dakota Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case that was sparked by the governor’s attempt to strike down a constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana. The constitutional amendment was passed by voters in November of 2020. The high court will be asked to decide whether recreational use of marijuana and the cultivation of medical marijuana and hemp are protected by the state constitution.

Efforts to Legalize Marijuana in South Dakota

South Dakota Constitutional Amendment A, the Marijuana Legalization Initiative, was passed on November 3, 2020, by 54% of South Dakota voters. The amendment was part of an initiative by South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws (SDBML) to legalize cannabis for adults over 21.

The group helped also helped pass Measure 26, a ballot initiative that will establish a medical marijuana program and was approved by 70% of South Dakota voters.

Both measures were scheduled to become effective on July 1, 2021.

But on February 25, 2020, the South Dakota House of Representatives passed H.B. 1100, which was intended to amend language in Measure 26 to change the effective date of South Dakota’s medical marijuana program from July 1, 2021, to January 1, 2022, due to the Department of health’s continued efforts to fight COVID-19 and the complexity of federal law relating to marijuana.

In March, the Senate amended H.B. 1100 to allow South Dakotans to possess up to one ounce of marijuana. However, the House did not agree with the changes and the bill died on March 11, 2021.

State Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. Rick Miller later challenged the constitutionality of Amendment A, claiming the amendment violated the single-subject rule, which requires that constitutional amendments must only address one subject, and that it elevated the Department of Revenue, which is tasked with regulating recreational marijuana use, to a fourth branch of government.

In February 2021, a circuit court judge sided with the State Highway Patrol Superintendent and ruled that the measure was unconstitutional because it violated South Dakota’s single-subject rule and was a revision to the constitution rather than an amendment. According to the court, a revision to the state constitution requires a constitutional convention called for by three-fourths of all members in each house of the state legislature.

The case was appealed to the South Dakota Supreme Court, which will be asked to decide whether the amendment violates South Dakota’s rule that a constitutional amendment can only address one subject, and whether the bill is proposing an amendment or a revision to the state constitution.

Marijuana Remains Illegal in South Dakota Despite Proposed Changes

Perhaps the most important takeaway for people in South Dakota who wish to use marijuana—recreationally or for medicinal purposes—is that marijuana will not be legal in South Dakota on July 1, 2021. The Health Department has created a website that allows South Dakotans to stay up-to-date on the progress of South Dakota’s medical marijuana program.

While South Dakota laws relating to the use or possession of marijuana remain in flux, for the time being, it is still illegal to use or possess marijuana in South Dakota.

Penalties for Possession of Marijuana in South Dakota

In South Dakota, possession of a small amount of marijuana for personal use is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.

If you are found in possession of more than 2 oz. of marijuana, you face felony charges that are punishable by 1 to 15 years in jail and fines ranging from $4,000 to $30,000, depending on the amount of the drug in your possession.



Jail Time


2 oz. or less


1 year


2 oz. - 2 ½ oz.


1 year


½ lb. to 1 lb.


5 years


1 lb. to 10lbs.


10 years


More than 10 lbs.


15 years


Christina L. Williams: A Criminal Defense Team Protecting Your One Shot at Justice

Despite potential changes to South Dakota marijuana laws, if you are charged with possession of marijuana, you face serious penalties. But an experienced criminal defense team can help protect your one shot at justice.

South Dakota criminal defense attorney Christina L. Williams and her defense team will investigate the charges against you, challenge the evidence, provide advice on how to minimize the chances of a conviction, and vigorously defend you in court.

Ms. Williams proudly represents people in Western South Dakota. Learn more about the cases she handles and why people choose Christina L. Williams and her criminal defense team, then contact us today to schedule your personalized case review and strategy session.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is offered for educational purposes only. This information is not offered as legal advice. A person accused of a crime should always consult with an attorney before making decisions that have legal consequences.

Categories: Drug Charges, Marijuana