Groups pushing pot legalization report cash advantage

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — The groups pushing for South Dakota voters to legalize marijuana have a large cash advantage over opponents of the proposal as the campaigns enter their final days.

The Argus Leader reported that two of committees pushing for recreational and medical marijuana ballot measures have raised a combined $787,270, according to campaign finance reports filed this week. A group opposing recreational marijuana reported raising about one-fifth of that, with its contributions totaling just under $130,000.

South Dakota voters will decide on two marijuana proposals this year — a constitutional amendment to legalize recreational cannabis and a program for medical marijuana.

The South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Industry has formed a group called No Way on A to oppose the constitutional amendment for recreational cannabis. David Owen, the chamber president, said that much of the pro-marijuana campaign money has come from a political action committee based in Washington, D.C.

New Approach Political Action Committee, a pro-marijuana legalization group that works across the country, has given about $600,000 to the South Dakota committee, called South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws.

Drey Samuelson, the committee's political director, defended the contributions, pointing out that the committee also has 15 times as many in-state donors as the opposition group.

If both ballot proposals pass, the state would become the first to approve both medical and recreational pot at the same time.