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2019 in Review: Marijuana Reform in Conservative States

by Sarah Cawthon January 08, 2020

Last year saw a number of advancements for marijuana reform in conservative states. South Dakota was able to place the issue on the 2020 ballot. Kansas approved tentative steps toward considering medical marijuana. Idaho has been okayed to begin collecting signatures for the issue to be placed on the 2020 ballot. And that’s just to name a few. conserv

However, while some states were able to make headway on marijuana reform, others struggled as lawmakers were unable to come to a consensus on the details of possession and sales in their states as well as the moral and practical implications of legalization.

Now, burgeoning legalization movements ranging from grassroots ventures to organized campaigns and legislative efforts could prove successful in 2020.

Here is a more in depth look at the state of marijuana reform in conservative states:

South Dakota
South Dakota made impressive strides forward in regard to marijuana reform and voters will now see the issue to legalize medical marijuana on the 2020 ballot. The measure would legalize medical marijuana for use by patients with chronic and debilitating medical conditions. The establishment of new cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, testing facilities, and dispensaries would provide new business opportunities.

If you’re interested in preparing for marijuana business opportunities, download our Business Guide and Checklist.

New Approach South Dakota had made prior attempts to obtain the support needed to place the issue on the ballot, but had failed to do so. In order to get the issue on the ballot for 2020, the group needed 16,961 signatures; they were able to obtain 25,524. If voters approve the ballot initiative, South Dakota will join neighboring states North Dakota, Montana and Minnesota in legalizing medical marijuana for patients in need.

Patients would then be required to obtain a registration card from the state’s Department of Health and would be allowed to possess up to three ounces of marijuana. They would also be permitted to grow a minimum of three plants and the maximum will be determined by the state.

During the 2019 legislative session, Kansas took a small step forward when they provided limited protections for certain types of low-THC medical cannabis oil when Gov. Laura Kelly signed SB 28, “Claire and Lola’s Law,” into law.

This law allows protection for possession of CBD oils with up to 5% THC through affirmative defense, which prevents convictions, but does not block arrests. Additionally, the law does not allow the removal of minors over CBD oil use, but does not allow for legal sale or production of cannabis oils.

When Missouri voters legalized medical marijuana in 2018, Kansas became surrounded on three sides by states that have legalized either medical or recreational marijuana. Kansas’ tangled relationship with marijuana laws and the conflicting approaches to marijuana have presented several issues for the state especially along its borders in cities like Kansas City.

Medical marijuana is legal in Kansas City, Missouri, but remains illegal on the Kansas side of the city. Simple possession of any type of marijuana remains a felony crime once you cross into Kansas.  So, when it comes to current marijuana laws in KC, it depends on where you’re standing. Literally.

Gov. Laura Kelly has been vocal in her support of medical marijuana for Kansans saying she would “likely sign a bill to legalize marijuana if lawmakers sent one to her desk,” according to Marijuana Moment.

But while Gov. Kelly supports medical marijuana for Kansans, several comprehensive medical marijuana bills failed to receive votes in the legislature in 2019 despite a recent survey conducted by Fort Hays State University revealing that a clear majority, about 63%, of Kansas residents support legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana.

Idaho also made significant progress in marijuana reform and the Idaho Cannabis Coalition has been approved and is currently in the process of collecting signatures to get the medical marijuana initiative placed on the 2020 ballot.

The Idaho Medical Marijuana Act would establish a medical marijuana program for qualifying patients and protect participants from criminal prosecution. The act would also bring new business opportunities for those interested in establishing a medical marijuana dispensary, production facility, or safety compliance facility.

In order to qualify the initiative for the 2020 ballot, the group will need to collect 55,057 valid signatures including those from at least six percent of voters in 18 of the 35 legislative districts in the state. The petitions can be circulated for up to 18 months, but signatures must be submitted to county clerks for verification by May 1, 2020 in order to appear on the November 2020 ballot. The signatures would then be sent to the secretary of state for certification.

According to ICC’s polling, three-in-four Idahoans support legalizing medical marijuana, and that support increases when voters are further educated about the initiative.

Medical marijuana is legal in all states bordering Idaho except Wyoming.

If you’re interested in preparing for marijuana business opportunities, download our Business Guide and Checklist.

Indiana’s current government officials are firmly against taking any steps toward following neighboring states Illinois, Michigan and Ohio in legalizing marijuana use during the upcoming legislative session.

Indiana lawmakers have not seriously debated proposals regarding medical marijuana or decriminalization and Gov. Eric Holcomb has stated that he will remain opposed to the idea of legalization and decriminalization as long as marijuana remains illegal at the federal level.

However, they might not be able to avoid talking about it during the 2020 election campaign as support for marijuana continues to grow in the state.  Ball State University’s Bowen Center for Public Affairs found in a 2018 poll that roughly 80% of adults in Indiana favor medical marijuana use and 40% are supportive of legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Only 16% back a total ban of marijuana.

The Indianapolis county prosecutor has even stopped pressing criminal charges against adults for possessing one ounce or less of marijuana. Government officials in Lake County, which borders Chicago, are considering whether to give sheriff’s deputies the discretion to write a $50 to $250 ticket for small levels of marijuana, instead of taking someone to jail.

However, the state Attorney General Curtis Hill denounced both steps and called the Indianapolis decision “a curious strategy to put out a welcome mat for lawbreakers”.