Angela Albonico, center, prepares to turn in signatures for a proposed medical marijuana initiative at the state Capitol in Pierre, S.D., Monday, Nov. 6, 2017. Initiative groups hoping to go before voters in 2018 faced a Monday deadline to turn in signatures to the secretary of state. (James Nord, Associated Press)

One of three marijuana initiatives passes first hurdle for South Dakota 2018 ballot

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota voters won’t have the chance to legalize recreational marijuana in 2018, but they could decide whether to allow patients to use cannabis medically.

Initiative groups hoping to go before voters in 2018 faced a crucial Monday deadline to turn in signatures to the secretary of state. Campaigns for eight measures have submitted petitions for review.

Initiated measures need nearly 14,000 valid signatures, while constitutional amendments require almost 28,000 valid names.

Secretary of State Shantel Krebs’ office conducts a random sampling of signatures to determine validity. Krebs said she hopes the review of all submitted measures will be finished within four months.

Medical marijuana supporters submitted about 15,000 signatures — narrowly exceeding the required valid signature count — for an initiative that would allow patients with serious medical conditions and a health practitioner’s recommendation to use marijuana. Qualifying patients, such as people with cancer, AIDS and hepatitis C, would be able to get a registration card to possess up to 3 ounces of the plant. Last year, the Secretary of State’s office said backers didn’t turn in enough valid signatures to get on the ballot.

The recreational marijuana plan aimed to allow people 21 and older to possess and use marijuana, but a writing error had called it into question. A state interpretation of the wording found it would have only legalized marijuana paraphernalia, but supporters said the problem could be fixed later.

New Approach South Dakota director Melissa Mentele said supporters came close to being able to submit the recreational use measure, but said the group’s primary focus was the medical cannabis proposal.

A separate ballot question that would have let terminally ill people get prescriptions for drugs to end their own lives didn’t have enough volunteers out collecting signatures, measure sponsor Angela Albonico said. Under the plan, state-licensed physicians would have been able to prescribe life-ending drugs to South Dakota patients who have diseases expected to kill them within six months.

Two other proposed measures approved for circulation also won’t appear on the ballot: one would have made it harder for the Legislature to tamper with voter initiatives, and the other would have legalized marijuana and established April 20 as “Cannabis Day.”