What are South Dakota's Cannabis Laws?

Explore South Dakota's Cannabis Laws: From medical marijuana regulations to the evolving history and future prospects of cannabis legislation in South Dakota. Stay informed about current legalities and potential changes in the state's approach to marijuana.
Written by
FTH Team
Published on
December 1, 2023


Understanding South Dakota's cannabis laws is essential for residents and visitors alike. This post outlines the state's current regulations surrounding the use and possession of marijuana.

Medical Marijuana in South Dakota

South Dakota's medical marijuana program, established through Initiated Measure 26, permits registered patients with specific debilitating medical conditions to use cannabis for therapeutic purposes. The state has outlined a list of qualifying conditions for which medical marijuana can be recommended. These conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic Pain
  • Epilepsy
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Terminal Illness
  • Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) and positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Glaucoma
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Patients suffering from these conditions can apply for a medical cannabis card, allowing them to purchase and possess cannabis from licensed dispensaries within the state. The program ensures that these patients have legal access to cannabis for alleviating their symptoms, improving their quality of life, and managing their conditions more effectively​​.

Recreational Marijuana

Recreational marijuana remains illegal in South Dakota. Efforts to legalize it have faced several challenges and setbacks. Key moments in the state's journey with recreational marijuana include:

  1. Initiated Measure 26 and Constitutional Amendment A: In 2020, South Dakota voters approved Initiated Measure 26 for medical marijuana. Simultaneously, Constitutional Amendment A aimed to legalize recreational marijuana but was later declared unconstitutional due to legal challenges. It was contested for violating the state's single-subject requirement for ballot initiatives​​.
  2. Initiated Measure 27: In 2022, this measure sought to legalize recreational marijuana for adults aged 21 and over. Despite being placed on the ballot after collecting sufficient signatures, it was rejected by 53% of voters, keeping recreational marijuana illegal in the state​​.

Possession Penalties

In South Dakota, while the possession of marijuana for medical use is legal within specified limits, exceeding these limits can lead to serious legal consequences. The penalties for marijuana possession vary based on the amount possessed:

  1. Possession of 1 to 2 ounces: Classified as a misdemeanor, this offense can result in up to 1 year of imprisonment and a fine of up to $2,000.
  2. Possession of 2 ounces to 0.5 pounds: This is considered a felony, punishable by 1 year of imprisonment and a fine of up to $4,000.
  3. Possession of 0.5 to 1 pound: Also a felony, carrying a penalty of up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
  4. Possession of 1 to 10 pounds: This level of possession is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in jail and a fine of up to $20,000.
  5. Possession of more than 10 pounds: This severe offense is considered a felony, with penalties including up to 15 years in jail and a fine of up to $30,000​​.


In South Dakota, the cultivation of cannabis is strictly regulated and is only permissible for individuals with a valid medical marijuana card. These individuals, who must be registered patients under the state's medical cannabis program, are allowed to grow a limited number of cannabis plants for personal medical use.

As per the current regulations, eligible patients can cultivate up to four cannabis plants. However, this privilege comes with certain conditions. The cultivation must be done in a secure location, not visible to the public, and the plants must be tagged with the patient's registry ID number. Importantly, any violation of these laws, such as growing more plants than allowed or selling the cannabis produced, can result in severe legal consequences, including fines and imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offense​​.

Driving Under Influence and Public Consumption

Driving under the influence of marijuana is a serious offense, potentially resulting in imprisonment, fines, and loss of driving privileges​​. Consumption of marijuana in public places is prohibited​​.

Transportation and Distribution

Transporting marijuana across state lines is illegal. Distribution, including gifting marijuana, is a criminal offense with potential jail time and fines​​.

Asset Forfeiture

Law enforcement can seize assets used in violating South Dakota's marijuana trafficking laws​​.

Legal Remedies

Individuals facing marijuana charges can seek legal assistance, with potential remedies including defense strategies and diversion programs​​.

Cannabis History and Future Prospects

Cannabis History in South Dakota

South Dakota's journey with cannabis laws has been complex and evolving. The state outlawed marijuana in 1931, aligning with the broader U.S. trend at that time. In 1977, South Dakota briefly decriminalized marijuana possession but quickly reversed this decision. The state's voters faced ballot measures for medical marijuana legalization in 2006 and 2010, but both were rejected.

The significant shift came in 2020 when South Dakota voters approved Initiated Measure 26, legalizing marijuana for medical use. This decision marked a pivotal change in the state's stance on cannabis. However, efforts to legalize recreational marijuana, like Constitutional Amendment A and Initiated Measure 27, have faced legal challenges and voter rejection​​.

Future Prospects

The future of cannabis laws in South Dakota remains in a state of flux. The unsuccessful attempts to legalize recreational marijuana indicate a divided public opinion and legal complexity. However, the national trend towards more liberal cannabis policies, as evidenced by multiple states legalizing recreational marijuana, suggests that South Dakota might revisit this issue.

The evolving federal landscape, with bills like the MORE Act and the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, indicates a potential shift in federal policy towards cannabis. This shift could influence state-level decisions, including in South Dakota​​. The state's cannabis laws, especially regarding recreational use, may undergo further changes as national attitudes and laws evolve.


While medical marijuana is legal in South Dakota, recreational use remains prohibited. It's important to stay informed about the current laws to avoid legal repercussions. The ongoing developments suggest that South Dakota's cannabis laws may continue to evolve.

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