As South Dakotans prepare to head to the polls this fall and vote on recreational marijuana, two Sioux Falls officials expressed concerns during a press conference on Monday regarding the plant’s legal status, reported Dakota News Now.
Mayor Paul TenHaken pointed to three “myths” coming from cannabis activists behind Measure 27, an initiative to the list of ballot questions for the November 2022 election.
First, TenHaken strongly disagreed that the state’s prisons are full of people with cannabis convictions. He contends that crime rates would not drop if marijuana was legal, but rather the contrary.
“The absolute opposite happens, and I share that because the data supports that,” TenHaken said, citing results from a Los Angeles Times investigation conducted by Paige St. John. The Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter revealed that rural parts of California are flooded with illegal marijuana farms.
TenHaken noted that the black market is flourishing even in places where marijuana is legalized.
“Why would you, as someone with a legal cannabis license, how can you compete against someone who says, ‘I’m going to bypass the laws, I’m going to bypass the permits, I’m going to bypass all the other things and just grow illegally, I don’t have to pay the taxes,” the mayor said.
TenHaken then touched on the issue of revenue, insisting that communities are not seeing any benefit from cannabis sales. “Any revenue that is realized is used to deal with the unintended consequences, treatment issues, crime issues that (are the result) of legalization.”
He also demanded, “articles, data, stats on how cannabis helps kids and families in a community” in order to “check the box and vote for it [recreational marijuana]” on November 8th.
Marijuana Goes Hand In Hand With Crime & Violence According To County Sheriff
Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead was even more critical of cannabis, putting it in the same category as methamphetamine and fentanyl.
He said cannabis is one of the most represented drugs that law enforcement deals with on service calls and that it is often closely connected to violent crime and gang activity.
“I certainly would keep marijuana in that top three of what drugs we’re encountering and dealing with on a regular basis, sometimes with people that are armed and posing a danger to our community,” Milstead said.
In May, South Dakota’s Secretary of State added Initiated Measure 27 to the list of ballot questions for the November 2022 election, providing the voters with yet another chance to weigh in on the legal status of recreational marijuana.
This time South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws (SDBML) took a more narrowly tailored approach to legalization after a 2020 legalization measure that got the green light from voters two years ago was struck down by the state Supreme Court.
However, a statewide poll conducted this summer revealed that South Dakotans’ general sentiment toward legalizing recreational marijuana has shifted over the past two years, signaling that a referendum on the issue this fall could fail.
This article originally appeared on Benzinga and has been reposted with permission.