Would recreational marijuana draw tourists?

The Early evening news on KOTA Territory TV
Published: Oct. 17, 2022 at 8:30 PM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - On Nov. 8, South Dakota voters will decide whether to legalize recreational marijuana. While supporters say legalization will give the state’s economy a shot in the arm, critics believe the drug is too dangerous, outweighing any financial benefits.

The Mount Rushmore state is known for attracting a large number of tourists. But will the potential legalization of recreational marijuana bring more people to South Dakota?

“For timelines of when these tourist comes in and in that we have to incorporate cannabis somewhere in the mix of all that,” said Kittrick Jeffries, CEO for Puffy’s Dispensary. “Having safe spaces for them to consume cannabis while they visit, making sure that they aren’t bringing product across state lines along with a wide variety of other things. And I think that’s where South Dakota is going to really find its niche in that we will be separated from Colorado, which they were the first state to legalize cannabis.”

Jim Kinyon, chairman for an organization called Protecting South Dakota Kids, says marijuana today is more potent than in previous decades and claims marijuana usage can be harmful to youths’ development and will negatively impact kids with mental health issues.

“Marijuana of 1970 was 4 percent or lower of what most people were consuming. The THC levels are now, on average in Colorado there, between 15-20 percent. This drug contributes to depression, serious anxiety or paranoia, psychosis, and suicide,” said Kinyon.

State Representative Mike Derby says if Initiated Measure 27 fails, he doesn’t foresee a huge movement on the legislature’s part to legalize marijuana. However, if the measure passes, state lawmakers say they will focus on rules and regulations, including testing, keeping the drug out of reach to children, and taking a major look at the packaging.